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REACH - Regional Extension Center Program Concludes

Minnesota and North Dakota Clinics and Hospitals Advance Use of Electronic Health Records

Published Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Regional Extension Assistance Center for HIT (REACH) celebrated the success of clinics and small hospitals in Minnesota and North Dakota that have advanced their ability to use electronic health records (EHRs) to improve patient care, as the national regional extension center (REC) program and REACH concluded on April 7.

During its six years of service to improve care by implementing and using EHR systems, the REACH program worked with nearly 5,100 clinicians at 662 clinic locations, and assisted 121 critical access and rural hospitals to achieve Stage 1 meaningful use through the federal incentive payment program for health care providers. Stage 1 meaningful use focused on using the EHR to capture and share data.

REACH worked across the two states, primarily with small health care organizations and those providing care to the underserved, such as community health centers and rural care providers. These providers generally lagged behind in EHR adoption because of their size and resource limitations.

REACH far exceeded its goal to serve 3,600 clinicians:

  • 3,600 clinicians achieved Stage 1 meaningful use
  • An additional 1,489 clinicians were supported in adopting and optimizing EHRs
  • Nearly all (98%) of the 5,089 clinicians implemented certified EHRs, e-prescribing (e-RX), and quality reporting—critical stepping stones to using EHRs to improve care delivery through meaningful use
  • Of the 62 RECs, REACH ranked seventh in the nation for the number of priority primary care providers it assisted to achieve Stage 1 meaningful use.

Clinicians - REACH Client Progress

Of the 121 critical access and rural hospitals REACH assisted:

  • 114 (94%) achieved Stage 1 meaningful use
  • Nearly all (98%) implemented certified EHRs, computerized physician order entry (CPOE), and quality reporting
  • Nationally, REACH had the greatest number of hospitals achieve Stage 1 meaningful use.

Hospitals - REACH Client Progress

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided funding in 2010 for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to establish 62 regional extension centers to assist primary care providers in the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records. REACH served Minnesota and North Dakota. The program was a partnership of Stratis Health, National Rural Health Resource Center, and The College of St. Scholastica, which coordinated with Quality Health Associates of North Dakota Health and the University of North Dakota, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Center for Rural Health.

“REACH clients now have the technological capabilities and companion change management skills they can use to advance clinical processes and improve outcomes,” said Jennifer Lundblad, PhD, MBA, president and CEO, Stratis Health. “They are more prepared to participate in quality incentive payment programs as a result of the changes they’ve made to achieve meaningful use, and most importantly, to deliver high quality, safe, and cost effective care to their patients.”

For clinics, the meaningful use objectives of the Medicare EHR Incentive Program will roll into the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) in 2019, along with Physician Quality Reporting System and the Value Modifier Program.

REACH used a process consultation approach, focused on providing tools and building clinicians’ skills to make their own changes in an informed and sustainable way. The program focused on meaningful use as a way to improve health and health care, to reduce disparities and to engage patients and their families.

“We’re very impressed at what the clinics and small hospitals in North Dakota and Minnesota have accomplished in implementing EHRs, especially knowing that most operate with significant staffing constraints and with very limited financial margins at best,” said Barbara Groutt, MSA, CEO, Quality Health Associates of North Dakota.

The final REACH program report.

About Stratis Health
Stratis Health is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1971 that leads collaboration and innovation in health care quality and safety, and serves as a trusted expert in facilitating improvement for people and communities.