Saturday, February 20, 2010

Importance of the HITRC

HHS has allocated an initial $50 million to be invested in establishing the national Health IT Research Center (HITRC). The HITRC will gather relevant information on effective practices from a wide variety of sources across the country and help the Regional Extension Centers (RECs) collaborate with one another and with relevant stakeholders to identify and share best practices in EHR adoption, effective use, and provider support. The HITRC will build a virtual community of shared learning to advance best practices that support providers’ adoption and meaningful use of EHRs. I imagine this is going to use kind kind of social media component that will allow real time collaboration.

The legislation states the HITRC will assemble and disseminate materials to support and address the needs of all prioritized providers, including but not limited to materials addressing the unique needs of providers serving Native Americans, persons with limited proficiency in the English language, persons with disabilities, and other historically underserved populations, as well as those that serve patients with maternal, child, and behavioral health needs. But interpretation of exactly what defines "historically underserved populations" is vague. I hope that rural communities are prioritized because that seems to me to be an area of great need.

The first awards for the RECs have been announced and they are beginning to ramp up. The RECs will become members of a consortium that will be coordinated and facilitated by the HITRC. Research and analysis of best practices regarding health IT utilization rests primarily with the HITRC, dissemination and implementation of those best practices learned from the HITRC will rest with the regional centers.

Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra announced on the FACA Blog that on March 8, 2010 the Implementation Workgroup of the Health IT Standards Committee will hold a public hearing on “Implementation Starter Kit: Lessons and Resources to Accelerate Adoption” to help providers achieve meaningful use by, in part, surfacing examples of effective meaningful use implementation preparation. He is asking us to post questions and comments about implementation opportunities and challenges we are facing today and for which we would either like to share or would welcome support. Unfortunately the response so far has been underwhelming. I would encourage everyone to consider posting some real life examples so we are not operating in a theoretical world but with actual experiences to develop best practices.

Considering the timing of the needs for the HITRC to develop best practices and this upcoming Implementation Workgroup meeting, I imagine that these stories could become templates that would be used to create effective adoption and implementation strategies. Every EHR implementation has a story to tell - it may be a wonderful example, or it could be a terrible warning. But now is the time to make your voice heard.