A Look Ahead at the Future of RECs

Todd Searls was a recent guest on HITECH Answers MU Live! We asked him what the future held for the RECs. What folllows concludes Todd’s two-part article addressing this question in greater detail. Read yesterday’s part one of the article What’s next for the RECs?

Todd Searls

Director of REC Operations, Wide River TEC
Nebraska’s Regional Extension Center for Health Information Technology (HIT)

So “what’s next for the RECs?” As we look ahead, those RECs who are able to leverage their close relationship with their primary care providers into an ongoing fee-for-service arrangement are the organizations who can be successful in the post-grant world, as there is no lack of opportunity there beyond Meaningful Use.  5010 and ICD-10 conversions, vendor training and support, data mining, HIPAA consulting, Stage Two and Three Meaningful Use, and more, all offer potential long term sustainability options for the 62 RECs who are interested in continuing their outreach efforts.  After all, once you spend 50 or 60 hours working side-by-side with a physician and their office manager, driving them from a 200 fax per day, paper record environment to a fully certified (and working) EHR system while, at the same time, sifting through the ambiguities of the Meaningful Use objectives, convincing them of your long term value shouldn’t be a hard sell.

But as I said in the beginning, every REC is different, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the Regional Extension Centers have created completely different sustainability models to that which I just discussed.  Perhaps these RECs work in a state where the large health systems or specific third party vendors dominate the provider market, and as a result, these RECs will seek other ways to stay sustainable by working directly with these players.  As a group, all RECs have spent the better part of two years building strong relationships in our communities with the large health systems and the various vendors and consultants who thrive in this space. Moving forward the knowledge of these industries—and the time it will save our clients who don’t have to research them on their own—will be the key to these RECs remaining sustainable.

So what is next for the RECs?  Change, but not necessary away from our core mission, but rather, in the exclusivity and methods with which we achieve it.  While the end result may look different from REC to REC, we all know that we will need to move swiftly to realize it.  The transition to our sustainability is framed in the same window of opportunity in which the Stage One Meaningful Use incentive checks are being deposited, and those RECs who can clarify and communicate their new message during this short time are those who are best positioned to succeed moving forward.