By Susan McBride, PhD, RN, professor at Texas Tech University Health Science Center School of Nursing
It’s important for nurses to understand the Medicare and Medicaid incentives to implement electronic health records (EMRs) and to move to their “meaningful use,” as well as the purpose of the Regional Extension Centers created to support nurse practitioners and other “priority primary care providers” in the implementation process.
Dr. Mari Tietze, John Delaney, and I are fortunate to be involved in two of the Regional Extension Centers in Texas. We believe that nursing professionals have many contributions to make in the evolving electronic highway in the U.S. We will blog later about our roles as nursing informaticists in the Regional Extension Center program.
What are ‘Regional Extension Centers’? Under the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) Health Information Technology Initiative to support getting providers to meaningful use on electronic health records, the ONC has established Regional Extension Centers. There are 60 Regional Extension Centers that will furnish assistance to providers in specific geographic services areas covering virtually all of the U.S. A total of $643 million is devoted to these centers.
The purpose of the Regional Extension Centers is to support priority primary care practitioners in priority settings to implement and use EMRs according to the meaningful use requirements outlined in our previous post (below is a screenshot illustrating one example of how an EMR might align with meaningful use requirements; click image to enlarge). The goal of the program is to provide federally subsidized outreach and support services to over 100,000 priority primary care practitioners within the next two years.
Regional Extension Centers will provide the following support services to providers:
- EHR implementation
- education and training
- project management
- meaningful use
NPs as “priority primary care practitioners.” A priority primary care practitioner is defined by the ONC as a primary care provider that is any doctor of medicine or osteopathy, any nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, or physician assistant with prescriptive privileges in the locality where she or he practices, who is actively practicing in one of the following specialties: family, internal, pediatric, or obstetrics and gynecology.
Priority settings. Many NPs work within priority settings identified by the ONC, including small group practices of 10 or fewer, public and critical access hospitals, federally qualified health care clinics, rural healthcare clinics, and other settings serving uninsured, underinsured, and medically underserved populations.
NPs are eligible for support services of the Regional Extension Centers. For more information on what services might be available to you, contact the Regional Extension Center within your geographic region. A table and map covering the 60 centers is available here.
Incentives program for EMR implementation. February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and along with that Act $33 billion dedicated to Medicare and Medicaid incentives for providers and hospitals who adopt, implement, or upgrade an EMR system and meaningfully use that system. As we blogged previously, meaningful use of EMRs has many parameters that providers must meet—but with that comes financial incentives that eligible providers can receive.