Many physicians have little to no experience with EMRs and implementation, so the process tends to overwhelm most of them. In response, the regional extension center (REC) was created to provide accurate information on availability, cost and quality of health information technology services to physicians and purchasers. With 77 locations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, RECs are independent regulatory agencies who promote informed decision making and plan for the health system needs of the physicians who practice in that state.
From a vendor’s point a view, the regional extension center serves as a great tool to connect doctors with EMR vendors. Bizmatics appears on 30 of the 77 REC site lists, says Anthony Bates, Bizmatics Sales Rep. Using the state of Maryland’s Health Care Commission website as a prime example, prospective buyers can view and compare vendor product pricing, security policies and case studies related to electronic health care record systems. “All our competitors have to have to meet the guidelines set by that regional extension center,” says Bates. The vendor guidelines vary from state to state; for example, a state may require prospective vendors to already have a certain number of customers in their state to get listed on the website. REC sites work great for vendors, claims Bates, if the vendor meets requirements and the EMR software is certified, they get listed. However, some REC sites chose to remain vendor-neutral.
Receiving assistance from an REC actually improves the doctor’s chances of choosing the best EHR and successfully meeting meaningful use. Some physicians started on paper charts and need the extra guidance; the REC holds their hand in regards to demos of EMRs the doctor is looking at – they set up the interface between the doctor and vendor. “Doctors really need someone in their state that they can rely upon and not pay an ungodly fee,” says Bates. “The role of the REC is to be someone neutral that has the doctor’s best interest in mind – that’s why the pricing matrix is for all vendors, so they get to see the cost up front.” Physicians reap the benefits by having all this information on a website and it provides an assessment for their practice. The REC is paid grant money to work with the physicians and therefore, the physician gets to engage with someone neutral that doesn’t have ulterior goals in mind.