Do RECs Deserve Respect?

Posted on July 6, 2011 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

When I learned that HITECH included funds setting up the regional extension center system to support small medical practices in implementing EHRs, I thought, well, that sounds OK.

I wasn’t thrilled, mind you, as I wasn’t optimistic that a government-sponsored organization would produce the quick EHR adoption process HITECH demands, but it wasn’t a bad thing.

Since then, I’ve gone from mildly interested to downright irritated.  While I wasn’t expecting the RECs to blaze a path to glory, I thought it would be nice if they produced great educational materials and sessions, made themselves highly accessible to physicians and offered clear guidance on vendor selection. As far as I can tell, we’re largely zero for three.

Yes, as a recent a recent study notes, the RECs are doing better at some of these things of late. According to a recent study by the eHealth Initiative, they’ve now reached most of the 100,000 PCPs they’d hoped to enroll, and they’ve developed better vendor specifications.

That being said, they really don’t seem to be that focused. Hey, if a privately-funded organization took this long just to begin to get started with their work, they’d already be out of business.

Not only that, when I made one completely unscientific mystery-shopper call to a REC, the staff member I spoke to didn’t seem to have much on the ball. He didn’t have anywhere to direct me for further information, didn’t have any informational meetings pending, couldn’t define clearly what his group could do for me and didn’t even bother to get my contact information.

Of course, that may have been a freak instance, but I’m beginning to doubt it. The buzz I hear is that the RECs have barely a clue as to how to reach their target population, and don’t really speak their language. Some of my EMR-savvy buddies think they’re just about useless.

I do truly hope that the RECs get their act together — maybe all they need is better marketers — but I’m not holding my breath.  My advice to doctors: Keep pushing on your local medical society, your IPA, your hospital partners and your practice management consultants to shed some light on the EMR adoption process. You’ll get further, faster.