I attended the HIMSS (Health Information and Management Systems Society) Conference a couple weeks ago in Orlando. It is the main healthcare IT conference of the year, and this year’s event had over 31,000 attendees (breaking the previous attendance record) and over 1,000 exhibiting companies and societies. It was held at the Orange County Convention Center (the rumor at the conference was that it is one of only three places in the US that is big enough to host the conference).
RECs (Regional Extension Centers) were one of the hot topics at this year’s conference. The mission of the RECs is to help physicians achieve meaningful use with EHRs (Electronic Health Records). RECs are funded through the HITECH Act and were first created about 12 months ago. Farzad Mostashari participated on a panel about ARRA and meaningful use. In addition to winning the Longest Title Award (Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology), he relayed some interesting statistics: in less than 12 months, 62 RECs have enrolled 46k providers who care for 70M patients. I was pleasantly surprised by these stats; sure, enrolling a physician is a lot different than a physician achieving meaningful use (and Farzad did not provide statistics on how many of the 46k providers have achieved meaningful use), but it’s a good start. Hopefully this encouraging initial traction in enrollments translates to success throughout the process.
Certainly the different RECs have varied levels of effectiveness, and people in healthcare have mixed reviews of their performance to date. But hopefully there are enough RECs providing the type of practical, hands-on and operational assistance that physicians need to make the program a success. And as physicians achieve meaningful use, they will drive more needs (and investment opportunities) in areas such as interoperability, data extraction, and business intelligence, etc. As patients and investors, we are rooting for RECs.