Maryland extension center signs up 1,000 docs for EHR adoption

By Mary Mosquera
10:42 AM

Maryland’s regional health IT extension center has reached its initial goal of signing up 1,000 primary care providers to help them deploy and become meaningful users of electronic health records, making the state one of the nation’s stand-outs in enrolling physicians.

The Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP) is the Maryland extension center, which offers local technical assistance and project management to small providers digitizing their records.

[Government Health IT cover story: The Direct route to more pertinent patient information.]

Although the state, like all others, participates in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) programs, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown have gone a step further.

They have made the widespread adoption of EHRs and establishment of a statewide, private-public and secure health information exchange in 2012 one of their 15 strategic goals for the state

The O’Malley administration has worked closely with CRISP, as well as the Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi) and others in the healthcare community to accelerate EHR use.

Using health IT will help reduce costs while improving quality and streamlining care, said Brown, who leads the administration’s healthcare efforts. “Reaching this goal for electronic health records adoption is a major achievement in our efforts to make Maryland the healthiest state in the nation,” he said June 6 in an announcement about the extension center.

Across the nation, the 62 extension centers have enrolled more than 75,000 providers, ONC said on June 6. The extension center program is charged with helping 100,000 providers to overcome the hurdles of deploying certified EHRs and becoming meaningful users.

CRISP, which is a collaboration of Erickson Living, a developer of retirement communities, Johns Hopkins Medicine, MedStar Health, and the University of Maryland, is also leading development of the state health information exchange (HIE). So far, Maryland’s 46 acute care hospitals intend to connect to the state HIE, Brown said.

[See also: Mass. extension center enrolls 2,500 providers to deploy EHRs.]

Maryland also was the first state in 2009 to require insurance companies to provide financial incentives to providers that establish EHRs.

“Connecting physicians is a critical part of Maryland’s strategy for health information technology,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He is also the newest member of public-private Health IT Policy Committee, which advises ONC.

Additionally, the Maryland Health Care Commission has developed a state designated program for management service organizations that offer EHRs hosted remotely in a centralized secure data center, which helps providers reduce the cost and maintenance for the technology and handle the responsibilities for the electronic data privacy and security.