Most RECs plan to stay open for business

As HITECH money runs out, most seek other funding options and 'continue focus on future endeavors'
By Mike Miliard
10:54 AM
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Federal funding for most regional extension centers is set to dry up by late this year or early next, but most of them still plan to keep their doors open, according to the 2014 HIMSS Regional Extension Center Survey.

[See also: REC leaders look to transformation]

As part of ONC's efforts to help primary care providers get up and running with health information technology, the 2009 HITECH Act provided funding for the RECs -- 62 of them nationwide -- to offer guidance and assistance for adoption and implementation of electronic health records.

Five years later, the program looks to have been a big success. The numbers speak for themselves: 147,000 providers are now enrolled with a REC, more than 124,000 of them have gone live with an EHR, and 70,000 have demonstrated meaningful use. Meanwhile, 872 critical access hospitals have also received MU incentive payments thanks to help from RECs.

[See also: REC leaders bring passion to helping docs achieve meaningful use]

Now, with ARRA money dwindling, most RECs are plotting a course for a sustainable future. According to the HIMSS survey, more than three-quarters of respondents from the 37 REC organizations polled say they expect to be viable at least through the end of 2014:

  • 85 percent of respondents said they did not expect to close their doors;
  • 28 percent reported that their funding ha out before the end of February 2014;
  • 72 percent had applied for a no-cost extension of their ONC funding;
  • Nearly half said they'd gotten state funding to maintain operations and are pursuing strategic partnerships with other organizations in their service area.

"According to our results, the survey respondents understand the need for and value of collaborative efforts with other RECS and organizations to support and be part of the services they offer," said Lisa Gallagher, vice president, technology solutions, HIMSS, in a press statement.

She added that 92 percent of the respondents say they're focused on financial sustainability for their REC, with various funding options and educational support from ONC/CMS cited to help maintain the services offered.

"The survey respondents also offer a positive outlook for their REC as they continue focus on future endeavors," said Gallagher.

Read the full survey here (PDF).

[See also: REC experts discuss access to rural, underserved communities]