On Thursday, May 28, 2009, the Office of the National Coordinator released guidance on the new Health IT Regional Extension Centers (HITRC).
Section 3012 of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), as added by the HITECH Act, authorizes a Health Information Technology Extension Program to make assistance available to all providers, but with priority access to Health IT for the uninsured, underinsured, historically underserved and other special-needs populations, and use of that technology to achieve reduction in health disparities.
The major focus for the Centers’ work with most of the providers that they serve will be to help to select and successfully implement certified electronic health records (EHRs). Assistance is NOT limited to new users, but may also be provided to existing EHR users who need technical assistance to achieve “meaningful user” status.
Goals of the HITRC are to: encourage adoption of electronic health records by clinicians and hospitals; assist clinicians and hospitals to become meaningful users of electronic health records; and increase the probability that adopters of electronic health record systems will become meaningful users of the technology.
The centers shall offer to all providers in a designated region access to information and to some level of assistance. The regional centers will become, upon award, members of a consortium that will be coordinated and facilitated by the to-be-established Health Information Technology Research Center.
We expect that each HITRC will provide technical assistance within a defined geographic area, and that each defined geographic area will be served by only one center.
To apply to host a center, an entity may have to:
» Define the geographic region and the provider population within that region it proposes to serve.
» Describe proposed levels and approaches of support for prioritized and other providers to be served.
» Address how the applicant would structure its organization and staffing to enable providers served to have ready access to reasonably local health IT “extension agents” and provide training and on-going support for these critical workers.
» Demonstrate the capacity to facilitate and support cooperation among local providers, health systems, communities, and health information exchanges.
» Propose an efficient and feasible strategy to furnish deep specialized expertise broadly to all providers served and intensive, individualized, “local” presence from an interdisciplinary extension agent to smaller groups of providers assigned to individual agents.
Initially, HITRC would have to provide matching funds, but ONC proposes to exercise the option in the HITECH Act to not require matching funds for awards made in FY 2010. It anticipates providing $1 – $2 million per center, with the largest center receiving a maximum of $10 million.
Centers will begin to be awarded in the first quarter of fiscal year 2010 (October – December 2009), and awards will continue through the end of fiscal year 2010 (September 2010).
The comment period is open for two weeks, and must be received not later than 5 p.m., June 11, 2009. Electronic responses are preferred and should be addressed to HealthITfirstname.lastname@example.org.