Study shows RECs can be helpful for providers

While implementing electronic health record systems can be an intimidating process for providers who work in organizations of all sizes, it can be particularly tough for small practices. Health care professionals who work in smaller practices should know that they can reach out for help with EHR adoption. This help can come from their vendors and regional extension centers, which have been set up by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology throughout the country to aid providers as they work toward achieving meaningful use incentives

Recently, EHRIntelligence reported on a study published in Medical Care and co-authored by former ONC chief Farzad Mostashari, which found that RECs can be effective tools for providers who have been challenged by EHR adoption. For the study, 55 RECs discussed about 19,000 issues affecting 43,000 providers., According to the news source, some of these issues included workflow adjustments, vendor selection questions, meaningful use issues and administrative problems. The study found that providers who worked with a local REC were twice as likely as those that did not to get incentives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' EHR incentives program. 

Examining problems
The news source explained that researchers used the ONC's Customer Relationship Manager tool to determine what problems may be holding providers back from achieving incentives and what they are doing to try and combat them. 

According to the findings, in 2012, 14,424 sites reported 19,209 problems to RECs. Some of these issues involved databases, while the top problem was provider engagement. Furthermore, providers were having problems choosing the right EHR system. The researchers explained that they believe this is the first time that EHR adoption issues were examined throughout the country. Now that these problems have been identified, professionals can start creating tools to help address them. 

Other common problems that were reported were financial issues and incentive eligibility. In particular, providers in California, Texas, Florida and New Jersey reported that they were experiencing a wide variety of problems.

"New challenges emerge as providers progress toward MU, creating opportunities to preempt large-scale issues with timely interventions," the study concluded. "These interventions must take into account organizational and cultural dynamics, increasing the need to identify multiple, often setting-specific solutions. If identified quickly and a time response is provided, problems may be halted before becoming widespread or impeding progress. RECs collectively organized and addressed these by building tools and processes that were proactively shared with providers, ultimately leading to more timely attestation and payment."

Learning more about RECs
​According to, the focus of RECs is to provide technical assistance for small pracitces that may not have the resources to implement EHRs. Some small practices are at a disadvantage when it comes to EHR adoption because they do not have the funding or support of larger organizations. However, that does not mean that they cannot be successful when it comes to adoption – especially if they reach out to their local REC. has resources that can help providers connect to an REC in their area so they can have all of their questions answered. According to the website, the professionals who work at these centers can "bridge the technology gap" for health care professionals. Providers who already have an EHR system and are struggling should consider reaching out to their vendor. The relationship between a provider and vendor should be strong enough so that the provider always feels confident that he or she can contact the vendor and get support any time.