EMR Challenges Faced by RECs

Posted on June 29, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been meaning to write a post linking to BobbyG’s blog for a while and just never got around to it. If you follow the comments on here, you’ll have seen many of BobbyG’s comments as well. The thing that first struck me about Bobby was his sincere and thoughtful comments on the challenges that the RECs face. Here’s some of his thoughts on REC Challenges:

  • Critics bemoan a lack of prior HIT deployment and QI experience among some REC awardees (as well as the heterogeneity of business models);
  • While 60 REC contracts have thus far been awarded, with the newly chartered RECs frantically ramping up to meet the rather compressed Stage One Meaningful Use incentive payment timelines, both the requisite Meaningful Use reporting criteria and the EHR (Electronic Health Record) certification regulations remain unresolved at this writing. The cart is seriously out in front of the horses in many respects;
  • The anticipated huge and short time-frame new demand for HIT installs may well overwhelm the capacity of HIT vendors, resulting in lengthy, problematic implementation queues (not to mention a severe shortage of qualified installation, training, and support personnel);
  • Notwithstanding that HHS is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on REC contracts, physicians and hospitals are not required to engage REC services in order to qualify for federal incentive payments. Consequently, RECs are having to spend significant time and money hawking their services (the polite term being “enrollment.” I did not know when I signed on that I would be required to do what amounts to hastily and minimally trained cold-call sales). Moreover, REC services are not fully subsidized, the upshot of which is often skeptical “we’ll pass” pushback, especially in light of the hyperbolic claims of virtually all major EHR vendors “guaranteeing” that their products will get the provider to MU (with the glossed-over disclaimer, well down in the fine print”When Used As Directed”);
    • At this writing, the aggregate Final Rule for MU criteria is still under HHS consideration, with myriad professional stakeholder groups arguing for relaxation of both the compressed compliance timelines and the all-or-nothing approach, countered by a broad array of equally vocal consumer/patient advocacy organizations arguing for MU criteria adoption “as-is” as set forth in the Interim Final Rule.

      I would have added another MU criterion: requireworking with the RECs as a condition of incentive money eligibility;

  • The relatively sparse per-provider federal REC funding may force the RECs to focus simply on assisting their client physicians with hitting the MU criteria in pursuit of the incentive reimbursements — to the practical exclusion of broader and more sustainable, internalized quality improvement efforts;
  • There is to be a “Health IT Research Center” funded by HHS and intended to gather relevant information on effective practices from a wide variety of sources across the country and help the Regional Extension Centers (RECs) 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.”

    It is not even slated to be up and running until FY2012.

I think most of these points hit the nail on the head. RECs are in for some major challenges. It will be interesting to watch those that creatively confront those challenges and those that fold under the pressure of it all. I still stand by my opinion that they could be a tremendous force for good or bad. Considering there are so many RECs all over the US, I’m sure we’ll have plenty of both types.