Frequently Asked Questions

What is the National Health Information Technology Extension Program?

The national extension program established a network of Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers (Regional Extension Centers) to offer technical assistance, guidance, and information of best practices to support and accelerate health care providers’ efforts to become meaningful users of EHRs. Regional Extension Centers (RECs) serve as a support and resource center to assist providers in EHR implementation and HealthIT needs. As trusted advisors, RECs “bridge the technology gap” by helping providers navigate the EHR adoption process from vendor selection and workflow analysis to implementation and meaningful use. The Regional Extension Centers support over 100,000 priority primary care providers nationwide.

The Extension Program also established a national Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC), funded separately, which will gather relevant information on effective practices from a wide variety of sources across the country and help the Regional extension Centers collaborate with one another and with relevant stakeholders to identify and share best practices in EHR adoption, effective use, and provider support. The HITRC will build a virtual community of shared learning to advance best practices that support providers’ adoption and meaningful use of EHRs.

How is the National Health Information Technology Extension Program funded?

Funding is from the Office if the National Coordinator for Health IT, in the form of cooperative agreements for this program, was awarded in two cycles.  In total, the fully funded program is in excess of $700 million.  For more information, please visit http://healthit.hhs.gov/programs/rec

What is “Meaningful Use”?

Federal standards for “meaningful use” of Electronic Health Records provide guidance for practices that want to use their EHR to improve clinical care, reduce dangerous medical errors, and control health care costs.  Providers can earn up to $44,000 in federal incentives from Medicare and $63,750 from Medicaid by properly implementing and demonstrating “meaningful use” of a certified EHR. Providers not meeting “meaningful use” standards by 2015 will be reimbursed by Medicare at a lower rate.

“Meaningful use” includes both a core set and a menu set of objectives that are specific to eligible professionals or eligible hospitals and CAHs. For eligible professionals, there are a total of 25 meaningful use objectives. To qualify for an incentive payment, 20 of these 25 objectives must be met. There are 15 required core objectives. The remaining five objectives may be chosen from the list of 10 menu set objectives.

If you already have an EHR, let AHEC help you achieve “meaningful use” incentive payments.

What is the North Carolina Regional Extension Center (REC)?

The North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program is the federally designated Regional Extension Center (REC) for the state of North Carolina. The REC helps primary care providers select, implement and meaningfully use EHRs to prepare for their work to improve the quality of care and transform into patient centered medical homes.

Services

  • Preparing to select, implement and use EHR systems meaningfully.
  • Identifying and enhancing workflows to improve the quality and efficiency of care.
  • Help improve clinical outcomes for their entire patient population.
  • Transform into a patient centered medical home.

Achievements

  • Assisted over 3,300 providers who have gone live on an EHR.
  • Supported nearly 2,000 providers who have achieved Meaningful use.
  • Coached over 200 practices that have achieved NCQA PCMH recognition.
  • Demonstrated improvement in clinical outcomes of patient populations in the areas of Diabetes, Asthma and Hypertension.

 

What you can expect from the Regional Extension Center (REC)?

In eligible practices, an AHEC Consultant with EHR expertise is assigned to your practice at no charge. Through all steps of EHR preparation, selection, implementation and optimization, your AHEC Consultant works onsite with you to:

  • Assess your practice’s EHR needs.
  • Explore how different EHR systems and features may affect your practice so you better understand implications of selecting an EHR and system features.
  • Prepare for the transition to electronic records by helping you evaluate your practice’s current workflows and adapting them as needed.
  • Evaluate and select the certified EHR systems that meet your practice’s needs and are equipped to help your practice meet requirements of EHR “meaningful use.”
  • Understand the vendor’s requirements for implementing the system you select.
  • Establish and follow an EHR implementation plan to help you meet your target “go live” date, avoid common challenges and minimize disruptions.
  • Set reasonable expectations for your practice and your staff as you transition to your EHR system.
  • Evaluate and adjust new processes in your practice following implementation of your EHR system.
  • Analyze your practice’s readiness to apply for HITECH Act “Meaningful Use” Incentive Payments.
What is the HITECH Act of 2009?

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 seeks to improve American health care delivery and patient care through an unprecedented investment in health information technology. The provisions of the HITECH Act are specifically designed to work together to provide the necessary assistance and technological support to providers, enable coordination and alignment within and among states, establish connectivity to the public health community in case of emergencies, and assure the workforce is properly trained and equipped to be meaningful users of EHRs. Combined these programs build the foundation for every American to benefit from an electronic health record, as part of a modernized, interconnected, and vastly improved system of care delivery.

The HITECH Act amends Title XXX of the Public Health Service Act by adding Section 3012, Health Information Technology Implementation Assistance. This section provides supportive services for the rest of the HITECH Act. Section 3012 (a) establishes the Health Information Technology Extension Program (Extension Program) which consists of both the Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers (Regional Extension Centers) and the Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC).

The HITECH Act also authorizes additional programs, initiatives, and regulations including to those related to strengthening health information exchange, health IT innovation, the health IT workforce, Beacon communities, standards and certification, and the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs. Information on these initiatives can be found at http://healthit.hhs.gov.

What kind of quality improvement services does AHEC provide?

Our quality improvement consultants (QICs) can provide you with tools, resources, and support to redesign systems in your practice that enhance care and improve patient and care team satisfaction.

Our quality improvement activities may include adopting tools and methods to help you drive improvement and system change, assisting you with preparing for programs such as NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition, pursuing credit toward Maintenance of Certification Part IV and earning AMA PRA Category 1TM CME credit; and opportunities to collaborate with and learn from other participating practices.

What is PCMH?

The primary care medical home (PCMH), also referred to as the patient centered medical home, advanced primary care, and the healthcare home, is a model that holds promise as a way to improve health care by transforming how primary care is organized and delivered. Building on the work of a large and growing community, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines a medical home not simply as a place but as a model of the organization of primary care that delivers the core functions of primary health care. The model aims to provide patients with comprehensive care that is patient-centered, coordinated, accessible, and high quality. For more information, visit http://pcmh.ahrq.gov.