New organization formed to support RECs

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A new organization has been formed to support the 62 federal Regional Extension Centers (RECs) and encourage Congress to provide additional funding after revenues expire in 2013.

The Association of Regional Centers of Health Information Technology (ARCH-IT) already pledged to provide aid and financial support to one-fifth of RECs throughout the country. Facilities in Arkansas, California, Florida, Nebraska and Texas entered into partnership with ARCH-IT, and David Bergman, founder and chief executive officer of Healthcare Intelligence Partners, was appointed executive director.

Despite the importance of RECs to the rapidly changing healthcare IT sector, the planned discontinuation of funding in 2013 could jeopardize the momentum established under President Barack Obama’s Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009.

“In the short time they have been operational, RECs have become trusted advisers for the healthcare providers they serve and play a crucial role in helping small practices adapt to the rapidly evolving healthcare environment,” said Lisa Rawlins of the South Florida Regional Extension Center and ARCH-IT’s vice president.

In addition to providing ongoing support to RECs in their mission of enabling healthcare practices to implement and use medical informatics technology, ARCH-IT could help providers meet stages two and three of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ meaningful use federal financial incentive program.

While many RECs have focused on ensuring member facilities have adopted clinical informatics systems under stage one of the initiative, stages two and three have much more stringent eligibility criteria.

Jonathan Fuchs, president of ARCH-IT, told Information Week that with the organization’s help, many specialist care providers such as dentists may be able to implement medical informatics systems that cater specifically to their needs.