In order to facilitate the adoption of health information technology (HIT), Alabama has one Regional Extension Center (REC) serving physicians within the state. The Alabama Regional Extension Center (ALREC) was created under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act’s Health Information Technology Extension Program. The purpose of this center is to provide physicians with education and technical assistance necessary to help them improve the quality and value of care they furnish by exceeding meaningful use of electronic health record (EHR) systems. This center is also dedicated to the broader long-term goal of developing Health Information Exchanges.
The first step toward achieving meaningful use of health information technology is the selection and purchase of certified EHR software, a challenging task for physicians due to the sheer number of vendors and the complexity of the many software options available. The Alabama Regional Extension Center can play an important role in guiding physicians through the implementation and use of EHR software the physician has purchased, making the process quicker and more convenient.
Some Regional Extension Centers have also chosen to offer a list of selected EHR vendors (also known as preferred EHR vendors) that have been prequalified or otherwise vetted. These EHR vendors are selected from a group of EMR (electronic medical records) companies that fit qualifications and demonstrated a commitment to the improvement of health information technology. In order to be selected, the electronic health records vendors on this list agreed to a higher base level of functionality and interoperability. This will enable physicians to achieve meaningful use and best participate in the Health Information Exchange. In many cases, Regional Extension Center members may receive group purchasing discounts, discounted pricing, and standardized terms and conditions by the EHR vendors to facilitate adoption quickly and smoothly.