Wide River TEC Achieves Goal of Enrolling 1,000 Primary Care Providers

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Nebraska Providers Earn Incentives for Using Electronic Health Records to Improve Care

Wide River Technology Extension Center (TEC), Nebraska’s Regional Extension Center for Healthcare IT (HIT), has surpassed their goal of working with 1,000 Nebraska primary care providers to implement and meaningfully use electronic health records (EHRs). Primary care practices and critical access hospitals (CAH) that meaningfully use a certified electronic health record not only improve care for their patients, but eligible providers who adopt and meaningfully use EHRs may also receive incentive payments through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. Wide River TEC provides clients with a full suite of onsite assistance services to help them select, implement and meaningfully use an EHR.

Over 670 physicians working with Wide River TEC are live on a certified EHR and more than 145 have already met the requirements for stage one meaningful use within the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. To date, eligible Nebraska providers have been issued $3,942,000 through the Medicare EHR Incentive Program for physicians, and $10,409,757 has been issued to eligible hospitals and CAHs in the state. These figures are expected to rise dramatically when the state’s Medicaid EHR Incentive Program will launch in May of this year.

Wide River TEC’s high level of performance has been recognized by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Wide River TEC is pleased to announce they have passed the ONC biennial evaluation process, which surveyed the first two years of the statewide program, with a positive rating. The evaluation commends Wide River TEC for reaching their provider target enrollment goal, building relationships with key rural and other Nebraska stakeholders and working with over 90% of the rural providers in the state.

The ultimate success of Wide River TEC originates with the providers who embrace the technology and recognize its ability to elevate the quality of care for everyone. Like many of Nebraska’s successful practitioners, Dr. William Weeks of Southwest Family Health in Omaha has been effectively utilizing the functionality of his EHR systems, thus assuring a higher quality of care for his patients. Dr. Weeks was one of the first in the state to demonstrate the meaningful use of an EHR. “Patient care has improved dramatically. We have seen greater efficiencies in accessing records both in and outside of our office,” said Dr. Weeks. “Our staff and providers were unified in making this a success. It’s really a great example of how common vision, goals and teamwork can achieve this huge accomplishment in our small medical practice.”

Katy Banks, office manager of Wedgewood Legacy Medical PC, a 1-physician led clinic in Lincoln, Neb. said, “Our physician and nurses can now focus even more on the patients; they spend less time searching for charts and paper forms. EHRs have made us more efficient.” She went on to say that their nurses don’t have to waste time looking for paper charts; the charts are now at their fingertips. One of their patients commented that she loves the patient summary she gets after her office visit and keeps it in her purse for easy reference.

Dr. James Fosnaugh of Wedgewood Legacy Medical PC says that he is looking forward to meeting Meaningful Use and that "The transition from paper to electronic wasn't effortless by any means, but we have discovered rewards even beyond what we expected.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced that almost $3.8 billion in Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program payments have been made to eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals between May 2011 and the end of February 2012. Over $738 million was paid in the month of February alone.

The number of physicians working with Wide River TEC becomes even more impactful when you consider the number of patients whose quality of care has already been improved due to their provider’s commitment and hard work to incorporate health IT into their practices. “We have witnessed firsthand providers making significant strides in switching to an electronically-enabled practice,” said Todd Searls, Director of Wide River TEC. “The 1000 providers who have partnered with Wide River TEC are leading the way for our community in meeting the meaningful use EHR criteria.”

Wide River TEC is currently in its third year of a four-year cooperative agreement from the ONC. The ONC funded 62 Regional Extension Centers (RECs) to help more than 139,000 primary care providers adopt and use EHRs (roughly 1 in 3 providers). Wide River TEC’s services include outreach, education, EHR support (such as working with vendors, or helping providers choose a certified EHR system), and technical assistance in implementing health IT and using it in a meaningful way to improve care.

Wide River TEC was awarded the grant for the state of Nebraska through an objective review process by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), and serves as the designated organization in Nebraska to support primary healthcare providers on EHR adoption and meaningful use.

Certified EHR technology gives assurance to purchasers and other users that an EHR system or module offers the necessary technological capability, functionality, and security to help them meet the meaningful use criteria. Certification also helps providers and patients be confident that the electronic health IT products and systems they use are secure, can maintain data confidentially, and can work with other systems to share information. The EHR incentive programs were established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). For more details on the CMS Medicare and Medicaid incentive programs, visit http://www.cms.gov/ehrincentiveprograms/.

To learn more about EHR adoption, meaningful use and other areas of health IT, visit http://www.healthit.gov.

For more information about Wide River TEC, visit http://www.widerivertec.org.

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Jennifer Rathman

Wide River TEC
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