Last two regional EHR-helpers get almost $10M in grants

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | September 28, 2010
The Office of the National Coordinator said Tuesday it picked the final two regional extension centers, giving them nearly $10 million in grants and completing a nationwide network of 62 organizations designed to help doctors enter the digital age.

The RECs provide technical help to doctors switching from pen-and-paper records to silicon ones.

In its announcement, the ONC said it would also expand two previously selected RECs, increasing coverage to hundreds of more doctors.

Of the new centers, CalOptima Foundation, which manages Medi-Cal plans and will now cover nearly 1,000 primary care physicians in Orange County, Calif., received $4.7 million. The second group, EHR-support organization Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, now covering 1,000 doctors in New Hampshire, received $5.1 million from the ONC.

Two centers, the Community Health Centers Alliances and Health Choice Network of Florida, will cover additional areas in seven Florida counties, totaling 1,021 primary care doctors, the ONC said.

"Conversion from paper to electronic health records is a challenging task for any provider, and we believe that help from the RECs will make an important difference, especially in assisting doctors in smaller practices and the smaller and rural hospitals," Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology, said in a statement.

RECs are the children of the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health provision of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They are designed to help doctors meet the challenges of adopting electronic health records. The HITECH Act earmarks $677 million over the next two years to fund the RECs. Doctors who convert their practices to EHRs stand to gain incentive money from the ARRA starting next year.