NCMS and Foundation Have Vital Role in NC HIT Development

The North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) and the Foundation (NCMSF) are playing a key role in helping to develop and implement the NC Health Information Technology Extension Center program (HITEC-NC). NCMSF is one of two major partner organizations working with the NC Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program to offer comprehensive technical support and educational programs to help primary care physicians implement electronic health records (EHR), achieve meaningful use and deliver high-quality, cost-effective care.

“We have developed particular expertise in assisting small rural practices,” said Maggie Sauer, Associate Executive Director of the NCMSF and the Community Practitioner Program, which provides loan repayment assistance and practice management technical assistance to physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in medically underserved communities in North Carolina. “We help rural practices assess their financial and organizational capabilities, practice workflow and redesign so these practices are better equipped to address the transition to electronic health records and can deliver high quality, cost effective care in economically distressed areas.” The PractEssentials program was established by the Foundation to specifically address the needs of physicians in their practices in an ever-changing health care environment. Assistance is free to participants in the Community Practitioner Program (CPP) and available at a competitive price to other practices.

NCSMF will collaborate with the NC AHEC Regional Extension Center (REC) by providing two staff people who will assist about 40 new positions in nine regions across the state to provide on-site technical assistance to primary care providers.  NCMSF will also help to negotiate contracts for group purchase approved vendor products and assist providers in assessing and planning for the use and implementation of health information systems (HIT).

“North Carolina is getting more than $26 million in federal stimulus dollars to facilitate a statewide health information exchange and transition to electronic health records,” Sauer said. “We want to ensure that providers are ready to implement systems and processes that will successfully meet the goals we have for a robust health information system to benefit physicians and their patients.”

The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence (CCME) is assisting primary providers with expertise in EHR development and clinical quality improvements. Also working with AHEC are the NC Institute for Public Health  and Community Care of NC.

Last year Governor Bev Perdue established the HIT Strategic Planning Task Force to develop a comprehensive plan to guide policy and prioritize funding for HIT development in North Carolina. NCMS Past President Hadley Callaway, MD, was one of eight physicians who served on the Task Force. Additional information about the Task Force and the HIT Regional Extension Center can be found at the Office of Recovery and Investment website, http://www.ncrecovery.gov/about/documents.aspx#Reports.

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