On September 28, 2010, David Blumenthal, M.D., National Coordinator for health information technology, announced selection of the final Regional Extension Centers (RECs), completing a national system of 62 organizations that will help physicians, clinics and hospitals to move from paper-based medical records to electronic health records (EHR).
RECs were created last year under the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Under the HITECH Act, $677 million is allocated for the next two years to support a nationwide system of RECs. Additionally, the HITECH Act also created the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs, which will provide incentive payments to eligible professionals and hospitals that adopt and demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology. Incentives totaling as much as $27.4 billion over ten years could be expended under the program, which is administered by CMS.
RECs will target their assistance to eligible primary care providers in smaller practices as well as small and rural hospitals and public health clinics. However, the RECs also will serve as a resource for all providers in an area, giving assistance, as feasible, to any doctor, hospital or clinic making the request. Each REC organization has identified a target number of primary care physicians based on population needs to be assisted in the first two years of the program.