Case Western Reserve School of Medicine Regional Extension Center Reaches Out with a Sense of Urgency
No-charge health information technology consulting creates access to additional federal dollars for a five-county region, stimulating the economy
CLEVELAND – Nearly $8 million of federal stimulus funds provided through the Ohio Health Information Partnership (OHIP) is already starting to help hundreds of doctors in northeast Ohio switch to electronic health records. Now, with a greater sense of urgency, the word is going out to providers who might not yet be aware that valuable advice is easily available to them.
OHIP is a non-profit entity funded through a combination of state and federal grants to assist with the implementation and adoption of health information technology (HIT) throughout Ohio. A Regional Extension Center (REC) was established last year at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The REC's goal is to sign up 1,765 primary care providers in the northeast Ohio region including Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Geauga and Ashtabula counties. The intent is to encourage and assist providers in adopting HIT in their practices.
Ohio has recognized the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine as a Center of Excellence in part for its commitment to a leading role helping technology and research result in better health care.
The REC at the University's School of Medicine is one of seven RECs in Ohio, but the one expected to achieve nearly 30 percent of Ohio’s goal of getting primary care providers to make the switch to using new health records technology. Recent totals show the REC at the School of Medicine has contracted with over 800 regional providers.
“Through the REC, the CWRU School of Medicine becomes a change agent to a new era of healthcare and medicine – a kind of launch pad for future medical innovations in northeast Ohio,” said Julie M. Rehm, PhD, Case Western Reserve Senior Associate Dean and Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. “The significant size and scope of CWRU’s REC illustrates the strength of the healthcare economy in northeast Ohio. We are privileged to serve as a critical link to the community, region, and state.”
The technology shift has a potentially powerful economic impact. Early adopters of the technology qualify for incentive payments from the federal government, and those dollars can be plowed back into the economy. In addition, there is job creation potential.
Case Western Reserve University, for example, has contracted with more than a half a dozen consulting firms to help deliver REC services. The recently established REC is a great example of a project bringing an entire community together, Rehm says.
Although much has been achieved in a short time, more remains to be accomplished.
"We're the advocate of the physician, stepping them through the process of adopting, selecting and implementing EHR," said Joseph Peter, the director of the REC at the School of Medicine. "Each provider is the general contractor. They have to select the software. They have to implement it. They have to manage it. We're here to teach them how to fish, not to do the fishing for them. That's the spirit of the grant.”
The REC helps providers every step of the way to make an informed decision.
"For a physician to join the REC and get these services, that physician must enroll in the program. There are a few simple forms to fill out, but there is no charge. We're finding that a lot of it is word of mouth. We really don't have to sell a program that's no charge, but some still might not yet know this service exists," Peter said.
In 2009, Congress and the president authorized major new federal support for EHR adoption and use, in combination with medical professional and hospital leadership. The federal government expects to see the tide turn toward widespread and accelerating adoption and use of health information technology.
To qualify for incentive payments, under a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Medicare EHR Incentive Program, providers must achieve meaningful use of certified EHR technology. Providers can receive an incentive payment after demonstrating meaningful use of the technology for 90 days.
Starting in 2013 the incentives start to decrease. It can take six to 18 months for a medical practice to adopt appropriate health information technology. Another three months is then needed to show the government that meaningful use has been attained. Providers will face penalties eventually imposed by the federal government if meaningful use hasn’t been achieved.
“These factors lead to a sense of urgency now,” Peter says. But some physicians with a medical practice still might be hesitant, thinking it's wiser to wait. “Physicians should take the time now to go through the process of selecting an EHR technology before the incentives are reduced and the penalties begin.”
Doctors who wish to learn more specifics about no-charge consulting regarding electronic health records can contact Joseph Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org or by making a telephone call to Peter at the REC office within the School of Medicine at 216-368-5756. To visit the CWRU Regional Extension Center online, go to: http://casemed.case.edu/CWRU-rec/.