The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has requested comments on a proposal to establish regional centers to assist providers seeking to adopt and become meaningful users of health information technology.
Comments are due by June 11, 2009.
Highlights from the May 28 Federal Register follow:
"ARRA includes provisions to promote the adoption of interoperable health information technology to promote meaningful use of health information technology to improve the quality and value of American health care. Providers that seek to adopt and effectively use health information technology (health IT) face a complex variety of tasks. Those tasks include assessing needs, selecting and negotiating with a system vendor or reseller, and implementing workflow changes to improve clinical performance and, ultimately, outcomes. Past experiences have shown that without robust technical assistance, many EHRs that are purchased are never installed or are not used by some providers.
A Health Information Technology Extension Program will make assistance available to all providers, but with priority given to assisting specific types of providers. The health information technology extension program consists of a National Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC) and Regional Extension Centers (or ‘‘regional centers’’). The major focus for the Centers’ work with most of the providers that they serve will be to help to select and successfully implement certified electronic health records (EHRs). While those providers that have already implemented a basic EHR may not require implementation assistance, they may require other technical assistance to achieve ‘‘meaningful user’’ status. All regional centers will assist adopters to effectively meet or exceed the requirements to be determined a ‘‘meaningful user’’ for purposes of earning the incentives.
Whereas research and analysis of best practices regarding health IT utilization rests primarily with the HITRC, dissemination and implementation of those best practices learned from the HITRC will rest with the regional centers.
Each regional center shall ‘‘aim to provide assistance and education to all providers in a region but shall prioritize any direct assistance first to the following:
• Public or not-for-profit hospitals or critical-access hospitals.
• Federally qualified health centers
• Entities that are located in rural and other areas that serve uninsured, underinsured, and medically underserved individuals (regardless of whether such area is urban or rural).
• Individual or small group practices (or a consortium thereof) that are primarily focused on primary care.’’
The minimal level of support must include the provision of unbiased information on mechanisms to exchange health information in compliance with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, and information to support the effective integration of health information exchange activities into practice workflow.
We anticipate an average award value on the order of $1 million to $2 million per center. The maximum award value we anticipate making available to any one regional center is $10 million."