David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, has been putting out some letters about HIT and EHR in particular. In his latest letter he talks about the recent announcement of the HIT Regional Extension Centers designed to assist and help with the implementation, selection and use of EHR software. Here’s a portion of his letter:
Key to the successful adoption and meaningful use of EHRs is the assurance that providers have the help and guidance they need to select, implement and maintain a certified EHR system. In addition, we need the various and often disparate local, statewide and regional systems to work together, regardless of location and differing state and federal standards or policies, to enhance patient care.
Toward that end, the first grant program, the Health Information Technology Extension Program, will fund dozens of Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers across the country. The regional extension centers will offer hospitals and clinicians hands-on technical assistance to support meaningful use of certified EHR systems. These modern health IT centers could be considered as somewhat akin to the agricultural extension centers Congress set up early in the 20th century, which helped to support vast improvements in the efficiency, quality and productivity of the agricultural sector.
We hope this 21st century health IT extension program will have a similarly profound effect in helping health care providers through a major transition in our nation’s health system, ultimately improving the quality, efficiency, reliability, availability and equity of care for every American.
A national Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC) will also be created. The HITRC will help the regional centers collaborate with each other, and it will serve as a national clearinghouse to identify and share best practices and experiences so that providers can learn from what others have gone through as they’ve put such systems in place.
You can read more about the details of the grant program on Chilmark’s post about the grant money.
Honestly, I look at all the millions of dollars that they’re going to pour into these programs and I wonder if any of them will have any real impact. They have to all be non profit organizations which is probably a good thing. However, I won’t be surprised if smart people find ways to siphon off the money given to these organizations for themselves. Maybe that’s the cynic in me. Maybe it’s just the reality of grant money.
I do like that they’re having a national organization that will hopefully aggregate data from the various regional extension centers. I think the problem will be that the national organizations won’t have any teeth to be able to ensure that the regional extension centers to do their job and share the information.
I’m hopeful that I’m wrong. I’m really interested to see the types of resources that come out of these centers. They should be creating a lot of really great stuff and helping lots of people. I’ll be interested to see which organizations get the grants. Will they be new or existing ones?