North Carolina AHEC Program
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NC AHEC REC Rolls Out Onsite Consulting for Primary Care Providers
NC AHEC is working with Primary Care Providers to help them achieve "meaningful use" of their new or existing Electronic Health Records (EHR). As a federally-designated Regional Extension Center, NC AHEC will provide individualized, on-site EHR consulting tailored to qualified practice’s specific needs at no charge to the practice.
Consultants from AHEC will help practices to:
- Prepare for an EHR by assessing and redesigning office systems.
- Evaluate and select a certified EHR that offers the best value for each practice.
- Identify and enhance workflows in the practice.
- Successfully implement a certified EHR.
- Achieve state and federal standards for “meaningful use” of EHR incentive payments to providers.
- Use the EHR as a tool to help improve care and satisfaction for the practice and its patients.
Each provider may be eligible for up to $44,000 or more through this program.
See the FAQs below or visit NC AHEC's The Quality Source for more information or view our information sheets as pdf documents (Practice-Based Services, National Health Information Technology Info, NC Regional Extension Center, Improving Performance in Practice).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the National Health Information Technology Extension Program?
The national extension program established a network of Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers (Regional Extension Centers) to offer technical assistance, guidance, and information of best practices to support and accelerate health care providers’ efforts to become meaningful users of EHRs. In total, the Regional Extension Centers will support at least 100,000 priority primary care providers (small practices and those serving safety-net populations), through participating non-profit organizations, in achieving meaningful use of EHRs and enabling the exchange of health information. The Extension Program also established a national Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC), funded separately, which will gather relevant information on effective practices from a wide variety of sources across the country and help the Regional extension Centers collaborate with one another and with relevant stakeholders to identify and share best practices in EHR adoption, effective use, and provider support. The HITRC will build a virtual community of shared learning to advance best practices that support providers’ adoption and meaningful use of EHRs.
How is the National Health Information Technology Extension Program funded?
Funding is from the Office if the National Coordinator for Health IT, in the form of cooperative agreements for this program, was awarded in two cycles. In total, the fully funded program is in excess of $700 million. For more information, please visit HealthIT.gov.
What is “Meaningful Use”?
Federal standards for “meaningful use” of Electronic Health Records provide guidance for practices that want to use their EHR to improve clinical care, reduce dangerous medical errors, and control health care costs. Providers can earn up to $44,000 for Medicare or up to $63,750 for Medicaid in federal incentives by properly implementing and demonstrating “meaningful use” of a certified EHR. Maximum incentives are available to providers who meet “meaningful use” standards by 2011. Providers not meeting “meaningful use” standards by 2015 will be reimbursed by Medicare at a lower rate.
What you can expect from the Regional Extension Center (REC)?
In eligible practices, an AHEC Consultant with EHR expertise is assigned to each practice. Through all steps of EHR preparation, selection and implementation, your AHEC Consultant, at no charge to your practice, works onsite with you to:
- Assess your practice’s EHR needs.
- Explore how different EHR systems and features may affect your practice so you better understand implications of selecting an EHR and system features.
- Prepare for the transition to electronic records by helping you evaluate your practice’s current workflows and adapting them as needed.
- Evaluate and select the certified EHR systems that meet your practice’s needs and are equipped to help your practice meet requirements of EHR “meaningful use.”
- Understand the vendor’s requirements for implementing the system you select.
- Establish and follow an EHR implementation plan to help you meet your target “go live” date, avoid common challenges and minimize disruptions.
- Set reasonable expectations for your practice and your staff as you transition to your EHR system.
- Evaluate and adjust new processes in your practice following implementation of your EHR system.
- Analyze your practice’s readiness to apply for HITECH Act “Meaningful Use” Incentive Payments.
What is the HITECH Act of 2009?
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 seeks to improve American health care delivery and patient care through an unprecedented investment in health information technology. The provisions of the HITECH Act are specifically designed to work together to provide the necessary assistance and technological support to providers, enable coordination and alignment within and among states, establish connectivity to the public health community in case of emergencies, and assure the workforce is properly trained and equipped to be meaningful users of EHRs. Combined these programs build the foundation for every American to benefit from an electronic health record, as part of a modernized, interconnected, and vastly improved system of care delivery.
The HITECH Act amends Title XXX of the Public Health Service Act by adding Section 3012, Health Information Technology Implementation Assistance. This section provides supportive services for the rest of the HITECH Act. Section 3012 (a) establishes the Health Information Technology Extension Program (Extension Program) which consists of both the Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers (Regional Extension Centers) and the Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC).
The HITECH Act also authorizes additional programs, initiatives, and regulations including to those related to strengthening health information exchange, health IT innovation, the health IT workforce, Beacon communities, standards and certification, and the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs. Information on these initiatives can be found at HealthIT.gov.