RECs Get More Funding…Or Something Like That

Posted on January 27, 2011 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.

As many of you know, I’ve never been a huge fan of most of the RECs even if I believe that RECs could be a great force for good. I am a huge fan of some of the incredibly smart people I’ve met that work at the RECs. However, some of the actions of RECs make me cringe.

Not the least of which is the “preferred EHR vendor” approach that many (thankfully not all) of the RECs have taken. I realize the challenge for a REC to have to support many different EHR vendors, but I hate having my tax dollars spent to support a small list of EHR vendors. Especially considering many of the suspicious (and possibly dishonest) and terrible REC EHR vendor selection processes that have occurred.

Leaving that part of it aside, I’ve always wondered how RECs were going to be successful considering the REC funding model. I heard one person in the EMR industry tell me point blank that ONC expected all of the RECs to pretty much fail and not reach the next funding milestone. He suggested that ONC was just hoping that some best practices could come out of the RECs from the funding. I’m not sure I fully agreed with this person’s comments, but I did agree that the milestones that were required by RECs to reach the next funding milestones were nearly impossible to achieve.

Turns out, ONC must have seen the same thing, because today Dr. David Blumenthal announced new funding for RECs:

For the RECs, we are providing additional funding of $32 million. This especially reflects our plan to accelerate outreach to health care providers to encourage registration for the CMS Incentive Programs and to provide more support in the field as providers adopt health information technology in their practices. We recognize that the early transition to HIT can be challenging and we want to make sure that our RECs are fully operational to help make this transition as smooth as possible. We are committed to offer substantial ongoing support to achieve meaningful use through the RECs.

Also interesting to note is that Dr. Blumenthal said that the 62 RECs have enrolled 38,000 providers interested in RECs assistance. Of course, there goal for the RECs is 100,000 providers. Still quite a ways to go.

What I find really interesting is that Blumenthal stated above that their providing $32 million in additional funding for the RECs. In a LinkedIn discussion on the announcement the following was clarified:

The ONC did not change the amount of funding the RECs receive; it is the same amount they were initially awarded. The funding was always for 4 years as well. What changed is the “cost share” proportions. Initially, in the first two years, the ONC would pay $9 and for every $1 contributed by the RECs and it would flip in years 3 & 4 (so RECs would contribute $9 for every $1 received by the ONC). What changed is that now for all 4 years, the ONC will contribute $9 and the RECs $1. It is a huge relief for RECs as many of them were worried about how they were going to match in the last two years.

The statement above [Feds to Better Fund RECs] is misleading because the feds are not increasing the total amount of funding available to RECs, they are just alleviating the pressure of the increased cost share in the later years.

I’ll let you weed through the possible inconsistencies in those two viewpoints. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter all that much to most of us. What matters is that RECs are in a much better position thanks to these changes to their government funding. Of course, after the four years, it will be interesting to see which of the RECs survive and what business model they’ll use to achieve it.

It’s also worth noting that the clinic that received the first EHR stimulus checks were helped by their local REC. I wonder how many others are using the RECs as well.