Another $267 million heading to states for health IT extension centers

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that another $267 million has been awarded to twenty-eight non-profit organizations to help establish support programs for state and local health information technology adopters. The health IT Regional Extension Centers (RECs) are expected to provide nationwide outreach and technical support services to at least 100,000 primary care providers and hospitals within two years, HHS officials said.

The addition of twenty-eight RECs brings the total number of centers up to sixty, with more than $375 million already doled out through the program. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the health IT industry is expected to support tens of thousands of jobs at the local level, ranging from nurses and pharmacy techs to IT technicians and trainers. The RECs will provide technical assistance and share best practices with local practitioners to help accelerate the adoption of electronic health records.

“Health care in our country is community-based. Today’s awards represent our ongoing commitment to make sure that health providers have the necessary support within their communities to maximize the use of health IT to improve the care they provide to their patients,” said Secretary Sebelius.

In a meeting with local leaders last month, Sec. Sebelius said the RECs are designed to be “boots on the ground” to help implement technology and workforce strategies to expand meaningful use of EHRs. So far, HHS in combination with the Department of Labor, have set aside nearly $1 billion for grants to train, hire and retain qualified technicians and nurses who will lead America’s health system into the 21st Century. And today’s effort is part of a $2 billion effort to modernize healthcare through information technology by 2014.

In addition to the over $600 million obligated for RECs, today’s winners, along with the thirty-two announced last February, will be able to compete for nearly $25 million in two-year supplemental awards, meant to focus on critical access and rural hospitals.

“Regional extension centers will provide the needed hands-on, field support for all health care providers to advance the rapid adoption and use of health IT,” Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology, said in a statement. “RECs are a vital part of our overall efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of health care through the effective use of health IT.”

For a complete list of REC grant recipients, click here.

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