Conference attendees discussed impact of regional extension centers on meaningful use
At the conference, those of us in ONC’s Office of Provider Adoption and Support (OPAS) were excited to share updates and opportunities created by regional extension centers that are partnered with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) – two vital components of the nation’s health care safety net – in adopting and optimizing health IT tools to support more efficient and effective patient care.
To date, more than 132,000 primary care providers are enrolled with the 62 regional extension centers, which equates to more than 43% of the total 303,000 primary care providers in the U.S.
Regional extension centers assist providers practicing in rural areas and FQHCs
Even more importantly, providers working with regional extension centers have a strong presence in underserved settings, particularly in rural areas and with FQHCs . We know that regional extension center enrollment rates are higher for small rural (non-CBSA, 56%) and micropolitan areas (47%) compared to urban or metropolitan areas . 
In an update to a February 2013 data brief , as of April 2013, 26% of regional extension center-partnered FQHC providers and 27% of regional extension center-partnered CAH/RH providers are demonstrating Meaningful Use through ONC milestones, up from 9% and 14% respectively in November 2012.
Regional extension centers help Medicare providers to receive incentives
In fact, a recent GAO report found that Medicare providers working with a regional extension center were over 2.3 times more likely to receive an EHR incentive payment than those who weren’t.  As of February 2013, 60% of all regional extension center-partnered FQHCs providers have received AIU payments and regional extension center providers at FQHCs have already received more than $243 million in incentive dollars!
This is great progress especially for the Medicaid providers who are leading the charge to Meaningful Use in preparation for new payment and care delivery models. We expect many more Medicaid, Medicare and even those providers not eligible for CMS incentive payments take a similar call to action and achieve meaningful use to demonstrate their commitment to providing better and more comprehensive patient care.
Conference highlighted additional opportunities to support FQHC and CAH/RH providers in health IT
While this is great progress, attendees at the conference learned many opportunities remain to support FQHC and CAH/RH providers’ participation in health IT optimization efforts that leverage and build upon Meaningful Use.
Regional extension centers have demonstrated their effectiveness and impact in support of quality improvement programs. The national network of regional extension centers are currently working on over 300 different programs to help providers transform their practices and enable better health, better care and lower costs.
Regional extension centers are transforming practices
As seen by the recent announcement, Meaningful Use of EHRs is accelerating throughout the nation, particularly where providers and practices recognize the role of health IT in enabling quality improvement. Regional extension centers have successfully demonstrated their role as trusted practice transformation agents in supporting providers who serve our nation’s most vulnerable patients.
We would like to hear your thoughts and any success stories you may have with using health IT and/or working with a regional extension center to improve public health in the comments below.
 Furukawa M, Samuels C, King J, Adetosoye F, Samy L. Engaging Providers in Underserved Areas to Adopt Electronic Health Records. AJMC, 19(3): 229-234.
CBSA indicates Core Based Statistical Area. HPSA indicates Health Professional Shortage Area.
 GAO, Electronic Health Records: Number and Characteristics of Providers Awarded Medicare Incentive Payments for 2011, GAO-12-778R (Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2012).
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