HITECH Programs Help CAHs Fund IT Conversion

by Candi Helseth

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) offers funding and other support for EHR implementation through several programs created by the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act.

The Health Information Technology Extension Program’s Regional Extension Centers (RECs) support and accelerate health care providers’ efforts to achieve meaningful use standards. Louis Wenzlow, director of the Health Cooperative Information Technology Network, credits the Wisconsin Medicaid Health IT Extension Program for maximizing EHR participation. Of 41 rural Wisconsin hospitals participating in the WHITEC program, 15 percent attested to meaningful use in 2011, 51 percent plan to do so this year and another 19 percent have set goals for 2013 or 2014.

Sixty-two RECs have been created throughout the country to work with providers in different practice settings. The RECs offer technical assistance, guidance and information on best practices that can accelerate health care providers’ efforts to become meaningful EHR users. Marty Witrak, chair of the National Rural HIT Coalition Workforce Committee, said the College of St. Scholastica works closely with Minnesota’s REC, contributing to the state’s high EHR adoption rate.

“The REC concept is an acknowledgement of what rural providers already knew,” Witrak said. “There aren’t enough consultants to help all the rural providers make the required transitions within the stated time frames. Hopefully, the RECs can guide them through the process.”

ONC offers teaching materials being used by 82 member colleges in its Community College Consortia Program (no longer available online). Program components are intended to become the building blocks of health IT courses at community colleges and universities.

For additional IT programs and funding opportunities, visit the HITECH Programs page and the ONC Rural Health IT Initiatives page.

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