Practice Transformation: RECs Partnering with Health Care Providers Like You

Mat Kendall; Paul Klintworth; Kimberly Lynch and Ahmed E. Haque | September 18, 2013

This is one in a series of blog posts to coincide with National Health IT Week. To follow the conversation on Twitter, look for the #NHITweek hashtag.

Health information technology (health IT) is essential for better health, better patient care, and controlling costs, but effectively using it requires training and focus. More than 130,000 primary care providers (PCPs), 40% of all PCPs in the country, already receive support from Regional Extension Centers (RECs) for adoption and Meaningful Use of health IT. The next chapter for RECs will be to deepen their support for improving care delivery.

As of September 2013, 88% of these PCPs have adopted an electronic health record (EHR) system and nearly 52% have achieved meaningful use. Many of these physicians, nurses and other providers now work with their REC to leverage MU to transform their practices to meet the requirements for new care delivery and payment reform programs.

Here at ONC, we have seen countless examples of how providers at small practices, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), and Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) have embraced the spirit of Meaningful Use by leveraging health IT to deliver high quality patient care and participate in new practice transformation programs to ultimately help patients live healthier lives.

Practice Transformation Today

With the increasing number of physicians, nurses and their staff members adopting and using health IT, especially electronic health records, they are also seeking technical assistance and practice coaching to effectively use those new tools for care delivery transformation and improvement.

In addition to ongoing vendor selection and support and clinical workflow analysis and redesign, RECs have grown to help providers:

  • Improve health outcomes through comprehensive and team-based care delivery via Medical Home/PCMH accreditation.
  • Improve health outcomes for hypertensive patients by leveraging health IT to take targeted but impactful action through the Million Hearts® initiative to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 through improving the ABCs:
    • Aspirin for people at risk
    • Blood pressure control
    • Cholesterol management
    • Smoking cessation
  • Achieve better care coordination, safer care transitions, and seamless population health management by exchanging needed health information with other providers, such as via interfaced immunization registries.
  • Ensure continued security and privacy of patient information.
  • Communicate and engage with patients and families using technology, such as patient portals for informed and inclusive decision making.

Supporting Practice Transformation through New Models of Care

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) focus on improving patient outcomes and increasing the value of care. ACOs promote accountability for the care of Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiaries, require coordinated care for all services provided under Medicare FFS, and encourage investment in infrastructure and redesigned care processes. These RECs support ACOs with technical assistance and education, EHR adoption, quality measurement and reporting, and population health management:

In 2012 and 2013, 25 states won planning, design, and pre-testing awards through the State Innovation Models (SIM) initiative. The Minnesota and North Dakota REC garnered an award to support strategies that achieve practice transformation and health care delivery through state-led initiatives and multi-payer payment reform model development and testing.

RECs also partner with providers participating in the Comprehensive Primary Care (CPC) initiative currently underway in seven provider communities across the nation. These RECs assist providers in better coordinating care for their commercial and state health insurance patients, adopting and implementing EHR systems, and supporting requirements related to quality measurement and reporting.

We are continuing to work with other federal agencies and RECs to connect providers with one another to share their experiences about how practice transformation is happening in their communities. We will continue to listen to physicians, nurses and other providers’ needs; understanding national, state and local health care environments and how they are changing; learning from and building upon what is working in the field; and leveraging shared tools and resources through