Regional Extension Centers Supporting EHR Adoption

The Regional Extension Centers (RECs) located across the country play a critical role in advancing the use of health information technology (health IT). They are charged with guiding some 100,000 health care providers in their efforts to establish and meaningfully use electronic health records in their practices. They offer a variety of services including outreach and education, and on-the-ground assistance.

With a total of 62 RECs, we are in every area of the U.S. to assist health care providers in their transition to electronic health records. To ensure that these critical partners have the knowledge and tools they need to assist their area’s health care providers, leaders from ONC’s Office of Provider Adoption Support  spend a good deal of time on the road meeting with REC staff members.

So far we’ve held workshops and seminars on topics like meaningful use, privacy and security, vendor selection, and workforce development.  We’ve had the chance to participate in events where leaders from different RECs come together to network and share best practices.  And we’ve learned about new ways we can support our RECs in their mission to help health care providers adopt electronic health records.

We are now implementing several new initiatives as a result of what we’ve learned from our REC partners:

  • An interactive online community that houses a wealth of tools and resources for RECs to obtain strategic health IT support and exchange ideas
  • An Outreach, Education, and Marketing Guide to assist RECs in their outreach efforts
  • A Meaningful Use Vanguard (MUV) cohort to showcase and reward health care providers who are true health IT ambassadors
  • Outreach campaigns to assist RECs in their recruitment of participating health care providers
  • Partnering with EHR vendors to identify best practices for working together to meet the needs of providers

These initiatives are only the beginning.

Our RECs are in the field, actively recruiting and signing on providers to their services. To date, our RECs have enrolled over 28,000 providers and for the last 12 weeks, the RECs across the country have enrolled on average over 1,000 providers a week.   Some RECs, such as Mississippi and Maine have enrolled over 60% of their overall primary care provider target.  Others, such as Colorado, the California Health Information Partnership Service Organization, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York City Washington/Idaho RECs have enrolled over 1,000 providers in the last few weeks.

We are looking forward to hearing more about the RECs and their accomplishments at the 2010 ONC Update Meeting, December 14-15, in Washington D.C. This meeting will be a great opportunity to continue our dialogue with the RECs and learn about other ways we can support them. We want to ensure that the RECs are fully equipped to help our nation’s health care providers become meaningful users of electronic health records.

To find out more about the REC program in general, visit


  1. Wynetta Thomas says:

    Getting to Health Information Exchange

    The presenter, Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy, ONC, insights were interesting and informative. The policy challenges, patient choices, and cost are only a few of the outstanding issues that continue to impact Health Information Exchange.

  2. Mark Kelly says:

    Looks like a good well rounded program hopefully information security is an important part of it since it is so critical when dealing with sensitive health records.

  3. Jojo Pornebo says:

    I am a student of the HIT education grant (Community College Consortia to Educate Health Information Technology Professionals Program) in Butte College. In 3 more months I will finish the course. I am already planning on what I should be doing next, specifically find a HIT job or at best an EMR implementor for a local 2-5 physician clinic. I have been looking for resources on where I can find a pool of clinics needing to move to EMR. I thought about our local REC CALHIPSO but their website shows that I have to pay $250 to advertise that I can implement EMR. So, is this a for profit avenue ? I remember that this REC receive $17 million to facilitate the implementation of EHR to clinics. Here are the very words from the HIT HHS:

    What are the Regional Extension Centers (RECs)?

    The RECs will support and serve health care providers to help them quickly become adept and meaningful users of electronic health records (EHRs). RECs are designed to make sure that primary care clinicians get the help they need to use EHRs.

    RECs will:

    Provide training and support services to assist doctors and other providers in adopting EHRs
    Offer information and guidance to help with EHR implementation
    Give technical assistance as needed
    The goal of the program is to provide outreach and support services to at least 100,000 priority primary care providers within two years.

    Most of the HIT education grant graduates will be freelancing for their own local clinics to get an experience. The graduates need all the help from the REC to “broker” the clinics needing an EMR without cost to the HIT people who has the knowledge. They need to compile a list of clinics needing an EMR and make it available for us.

    Jojo Pornebo

    • Speranza Avram says:

      As Executive Director of CalHIPSO, I wanted to provide some more information about how students receiving training through the CC program can obtain internships and/or seek employment. First, we are working closely with the leadership of the CC program, Linda Zorn and Jim Cummings, and are discussing ways to connect graduating students with providers who need assistance. Second, our service delivery model, providers are assigned to Local Extension Centers (LECs), and it is the LECs who are the primary point of contact for a provider. A contact list of LECs is on our webiste at and I would encourage CC students to communicate direcly with the LECs to see what opportunities they may have available. Third, LECs are supported by Servcie Partners, who are experienced individuals or consulting firms who assist the LECs with implementation services. Service partners have to meet a minimum set of standards, and we check references for each Service Partner – this is why we charge a $250 processing fee. A complete list of Service Partners, close to 70 of them, is on our website as well. These would be good organizations to contact to see what assistance they need. Finally, we do occasionaly post positions on our web site for EHR staff, and hope to expand this service in the near future.

      I hope this answers your questions about how to seek employment or internships through the CalHIPSO REC. Thank you.

      • Jojo Pornebo says:

        Ms. Avram,

        I would like to make a suggestion, as this is how I visualize the future of the HIT graduates.

        One of the roads that a HIT (grant education) graduate will be to acquire employment from an “IT company performing Health IT contracts”. As this is a surefire way of gaining initial experience as a temp or intern, I think this has a longer term effect of pursuing the “HIT workforce goal”.

        There are rural communities that may not have coverage from IT (or HIT) contractors; these are the niche areas. In these areas, HIT graduates can start putting to work what we have learned. HIT graduates, as freelancers, can capture the smaller part of the market, start small, and grow to implement the HITECH vision as we learn from these smaller clinics’ HIT implementation.

        Before the HIT (grant education) I have been searching IT companies that tend to Health IT contracts as their major business. It seems that most IT companies does not have much intellect on the health portion of HIT. HHS themselves sees that there is not enough workforce to implement the ARRA/health stimulus. The creation of the HIT grant education affirms the existence of a new branch of a mix of industries – the Health in IT industry. These are the IT people who has a good grasp of the health workflow processes, or vice-versa, the Health people who has a well-versed understanding of the IT technology.

        With my vision in mind, the RECs can help us acquire our clients. We need the RECs’ assistance. I understand that the major REC effort is to assist a clinic/health-provider in acquiring an EMR software and an EMR implementor. CalHIPSO has a list of “certified” HIT contractors (implementors). And I’ve read in some other blog that RECs are also filtering the EMR software brands to choose from. However, for those HIT (grant education) graduates who want to be a freelancer, there seems to be no effort allocated by the RECs. I would think that the ONC had not thought of funding $36M + $32M for the Community College Consortia portion of the HITECH funding project, if, after the HIT students have graduated we would be left in the dark planning to make our first HIT implementation. We need asistance and my opinion is to create a clinic/provider-to-HIT graduate match-up. A system that I propose is a database of REC-registered clinic/provider that HIT graduates can acesss. HIT graduates can use the database to find prospective clinic/providers in their niche areas and propose an EMR implementation.

        Would a system like this be one of a RECs (CalHIPSOs) project ?

        Jojo Pornebo

  4. Sonali Luniya says:

    It is a great program, but the RECs which are primarily suppose to help the small Primary Care Physician practice should take input from the PCPs to select their partner EHR vendors.

    Most RECs so far have picked top 5-10 EHRs vendors based on RFPs filled out by the EHR vendors. The RFPs included questions about the vendors & their product features and not how the product could meet a particular need/demand of the primary care provider.

    The top 10 vendors are mostly the well established EHR vendors built on old software technology which are not very user friendly. User friendliness is one of the top barriers to EHR adoption in the small (1-10 doctors) Primary Care Physician practices.


    • Patrick Casey says:

      Your concern for the particular needs of the small Primary Care Physician is well placed. Their needs vary widely from practice to practice, including their perceptions regarding what is user friendly.

      Speaking for the North Texas REC, one of four in the state, we are vendor neutral and support the implementation of any EHR product certified by the ONC and listed on it’s website. Our first action with a REC enrollee is to conduct an initial office assessment to learn the particulars of the practice.

      With this in view, we then work with the practice to select an EHR product which best suits their needs, including workflow and their personal preferences regarding ease of use. The practice then evaluates the products directly and is free to choose any certified EHR (from a portfolio that now includes over 375 products).

      We have an open RFI policy towards all EHR vendors wishing to submit information to us so our consultants can become familiar with their products and thus be best equipped to make recommendations relative to practice assessments, and invite vendors to make presentations to HIT summits we conduct for our region.

      In addition, the ONC seeks a collaborative relationship with vendors to make product selection easier and more transparent for our provider clients.

      Patrick J. Casey
      Meaningful Use Specialist
      North Texas Regional Extension Center

  5. Luis says:

    It is just a wonderful software, though the RECs that happen to be mostly presume to help you small Principal Proper care Medical professional train need to get insight through the PCPs to decide on his or her lover EHR sellers.

    Nearly all RECs thus far get picked out prime 5-10 EHRs sellers determined by RFPs filled out with the EHR sellers. Your RFPs involved concerns regarding the sellers & his or her product or service capabilities but not what sort of product or service may meet up with a selected need/demand in the principal proper care company.

    The superior 10 sellers are generally generally your better established EHR sellers developed in previous software package technological innovation that happen to be not too simple to use. Simplicity is just about the prime limitations for you to EHR use inside smaller (1-10 medical professionals) Principal Proper care Medical professional routines.


  6. says:


    Thanks for helping out, good info .

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