Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that $1.2 billion in grant money will be made available to help hospitals and other health care providers transition to electronic health records. Of that amount, $589 million will go to create what the HITECH Act calls Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers.
Seeking more information on what these regional centers would provide and why they were necessary, I called Stevie Davidson, the president and CEO of Health Informatics Consulting. Davidson also serves on New Jersey's Health Information Technology Commission.
She explained that the $589 million would be divided among nonprofits across the country that apply and are qualified to create one of at least 70 regional centers responsible for assisting health care providers in their respective geographic areas with the transition. Then, the remaining $564 million will be awarded to hospitals and health clinics for their e-health records systems.
According to the Health and Human Services Web site, the regional centers will be responsible for much more than helping the hospitals select the right technology. They will also assist them in:
HHS also indicates that the centers' "most intensive technical assistance" will go to physicians, nurse practitioners and other clinicians in small practices because they provide the majority of the nation's health care, but are also the least likely to adopt EHR systems.