Commentary: Developing REC MUVers

David Groves, executive director of the Tri-State Regional Extension Center

I learned many years ago the power of setting goals for a team and letting that goal empower people to creatively and collectively overcome barriers to achieving a bold objective. Leading a Regional Extension Center (REC) seemed an ideal place to put that power to work. Once again it proved successful. In late September 2011, on the final day of our REC recruitment campaign, the Tri-State REC reached its goal of enrolling over 1,700 primary care providers to our Direct Assistance program for EHR adoption and meaningful use. While recruitment has not stopped our focus is definitely shifted from outreach to EHR implementation and meaningful use attestations.

The Tri-State REC is led by HealthBridge and supported by regional partners in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. We are the only REC among 62 nationally covering counties in three states. Our geography of 67 counties is anchored by Cincinnati and surrounded by many rural areas and small towns. Our partners provide professional support in proximity to these hare-to-reach areas. By the end of 2011 it is our goal to have 60 percent of our enrolled providers live on a certified EHR and to move at least 10 percent to meaningful use attestation.

Over 100 Tri-State providers have already reached that goal. They are the vanguards of meaningful use, or “MUVers.” Among them are those we would naturally expect to excel, the early adopters of EHR technology. Peter Muir, MD, and his practice in Springfield, Ohio fit that mold well, have been using an EHR for 4 years and were among the very first providers nationally to attest to meaningful use. Dr. Muir is a full time practicing physician, an informaticist, and an energetic resource for the REC. He is directly supporting several other practices on their journey of EHR adoption including the Springfield Urology group who also recently attested to meaningful use.

But we also have the unlikely MUVers; physicians like Penny Hahn, MD, who works in a single provider setting serving mostly Medicaid and self-pay patients in the small Ohio town of Morrow. She was a paper-based practice until April of this year when she went live with an EHR. We had the pleasure this week of presenting Dr. Hahn a MUVer certificate signed by Farzad Mostashari, MD, national coordinator for health IT, and a letter of commendation from Ohio Senator Sharrod Brown.

Dr. Hahn’s dispels many of the negative myths of EHR adoption. She was able to maintain a full schedule of patients after only a few days on her EHR. She has experienced an increase in revenue and collections and, because most of her clinical results are sent electronically via HealthBridge to her EHR, she has eliminated almost all the paper in her practice. Dr. Hahn told me one of her patients asked her if she had purchased a new desk. “No, it’s not a new desk, she said, it’s just not piled two feet high in medical charts.”

The goal of the REC program launched by the ONC in 2010 was to create a tipping point, as described in Malcomb Gladwell’s book of the same name. I believe the tipping point for EHR adoption is here. In 2012, we will see tens of thousands of providers attesting to meaningful use. Many of these will be first-time EHR users. EHRs in the physician practice will be common place and both providers and their patients will benefit. The EHR itself is not the goal. The improvement of our healthcare system is the goal and physicians like Dr. Muir and Dr. Hahn are proving that an EHR is a valuable tool in creating a patient-centric practice, engaging patients in their care, and coordinating care with other providers.

David Groves, MBA, is executive director of the Tri-State Regional Extension Center HealthBridge. The Tri-State Regional Extension Center (REC) was established by a $10.1 million grant awarded to HealthBridge from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help more than 1,700 providers in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky switch from paper records to EHRs and achieve meaningful use over the next several years.

This article was originally published on the News page.

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