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Regional Extension Centers (RECs)

REC Support for Health Information Exchange

Physicians, hospitals, public health agencies, and patients rely on health information exchange and health information technology to support transitions of care, lab exchange, public health, and patient engagement.  It’s important to remember interoperability enables secure and reliable health information exchange and is crucial to facilitate communication across all provider organizations involved in patient care.

As trusted advisors in their respective service areas, Regional Extension Centers (REC’s) have been involved in working with their providers to meet interoperability and health information exchange needs in their practices.  As of July 2013, more than 147,000 providers are currently enrolled with a Regional Extension Center, 124,000 are in the process of becoming meaningful users of health information technology, and over 70,000 have demonstrated Meaningful Use. The most common types of support REC’s offer their providers as it relates to health information exchange include, but are not limited to:

  • Education and outreach to raise awareness about the benefits of Direct, connecting with HIE, and the benefits of automated alerts for Admission, Transfer, and Discharge to reduce readmissions
  • Assistance with navigating the various health information exchange options
  • HIE on-boarding
  • Assistance engaging vendors about Meaningful Use (MU) Stage 2 requirements
  • Assist providers with integrating Direct into current EHR workflows
  • Transitions of care for long-term care facilities
  • Reducing readmissions and preventing readmission penalties for hospitals and their affiliated providers.

How RECs Can Help

ONC has actively engaged with REC’s to assist them with developing new service lines.  The ultimate goal is that these service lines would assist the providers they are working with to fully utilize their EHR systems to improve the quality of care they are providing to their patients. REC’s are well underway with evaluating the future needs of providers around MU Stage 2 and developing the related solutions to address those needs. By conducting environmental scans and assessing their provider market to identify the needs and demands of their providers, the REC’s are better able to evaluate the future and evolving needs of their providers as it relates to securely exchanging health information to improve patient care.


Healthcare providers rely on health information technology and health information exchange to support both care management and the transition of their patients across various health care settings.  The Tennessee REC (TnREC) and the Rhode Island REC have both developed service lines focused on improving communication across all care providers in order to improve care transitions and encourage prevention of unnecessary utilization of hospital services. Both RECs have also identified communities in their service area where they are attempting to improve the flow of patient information.  The goal is for providers and case managers to adequately monitor the needs of their patients as they are transitioned from ambulatory to inpatient facilities and back into their respective communities.

For REC’s focused on preventing readmissions and reducing avoidable hospitalizations, the following strategies are used:

  • TnREC is participating in the Direct Project and assists with tracking the actual use of Direct in the Chattanooga community to reduce readmissions and improve overall health.  TnREC is also promoting the use of Direct and health information exchange by increasing awareness and educating providers about what Direct secure messaging means to them and their patients at the community level.
  • The Rhode Island REC is partnering with their state HIE (Current Care) to track the impact hospital alerts have on the readmissions rate for patients.  The Admission, Discharge, and Transfer (ADT) alerts are crucial in communicating the status of a particular patient’s care transition and also alerting the provider when the patient’s ADT has been updated or changed so that they can then make the necessary care decisions.
    • Dr. David Fried works with the Rhode Island REC and the State HIE to use hospital alerts to ensure consistent communication between nurse care managers and physicians. The alerts allow Dr.Fried and his care team to remain informed of when their patients enter the emergency room or are admitted to the hospital. The Rhode Island REC also helps providers like Dr. Karen Blackmer encourage patient enrollment in Current Care so that she can receive Hospital alerts when her patients are admitted. 

Learn more about HIE and find one near you.

Direct Leave Behind Document A basic overview of Direct and its benefits


Vendor-provider communication tool Learn more about proactively engaging EHR vendors to understand the exchange tools that will be available for Stage 2 MU


Blue Button Veteran Poster Blue Button outreach poster for Veterans


Blue Button Medicare Poster Blue Button outreach poster for Medicare patients


Overcoming the Challenges to Achieve Lab Interoperability Learn how a practice overcomes challenges and achieves lab interoperability.