$267 Million Awarded to Establish Health IT Centers

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yesMore than $267 million has been been awarded to 28 additional nonprofit organizations to establish Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers (RECs), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Tuesday.

RECs enable healthcare practitioners to reach out to a local resource for technical assistance, guidance and information on best practices. The centers are designed to address unique community requirements and to support and accelerate provider efforts to become meaningful users of electronic health records.

“Healthcare in our country is community based,” Sebelius said. “[Yesterday’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.”

More than $375 million had been awarded earlier to RECs under this program. All REC awardees now have an opportunity to apply for a two-year expansion supplemental award. The supplemental awards would ensure that health IT support services are available to over 2,000 of the nation’s critical access hospitals and rural hospitals, both defined as having 50 beds or less. Approximately $25 million is available through this supplemental expansion program.

Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology, said regional extension centers will provide the needed hands-on, field support for all healthcare providers to advance the adoption and use of health IT.

“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,” he said.

Tuesday’s awards are part of the $2 billion effort by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to achieve widespread meaningful use of health IT and provide use of an electronic health record by every person by the year 2014.

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