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The Health IT Regional Extension Center Program: Evolution and Lessons for Health Care Transformation

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Keywords: Health information technology;electronic health records;meaningful use;practice transformation;primary care providers

Objective: Assess the Regional Extension Center (REC) program's progress toward its goal of supporting over 100,000 providers in small, rural, and underserved practices to achieve meaningful use (MU) of an electronic health record (EHR).

Data Sources/Study Setting: Data collected January 2010 through June 2013 via monitoring and evaluation of the 4-year REC program.

Study Design: Descriptive study of 62 REC programs.

Data Collection/Extraction Methods: Primary data collected from RECs were merged with nine other datasets, and descriptive statistics of progress by practice setting and penetration of targeted providers were calculated.

Principal Findings: RECs recruited almost 134,000 primary care providers (PCPs), or 44 percent of the nation's PCPs; 86 percent of these were using an EHR with advanced functionality and almost half (48 percent) have demonstrated MU. Eighty-three percent of Federally Qualified Health Centers and 78 percent of the nation's Critical Access Hospitals were participating with an REC.

Conclusions: RECs have made substantial progress in assisting PCPs with adoption and MU of EHRs. This infrastructure supports small practices, community health centers, and rural and public hospitals to use technology for care delivery transformation and improvement.

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