The Chicago Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (CHITREC) is a partnership among Northwestern University, the Alliance of Chicago Community Health Services and more than 40 local and national collaborators focused on HIT adoption and use needs within the city of Chicago. CHITREC is a local service organization, specifically serving the 606xx zip code region in Chicago, and provides a range of services to primary care providers interested in achieving meaningful use of Electronic Health Records (EHR). As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Office of National Coordinator for HIT has provided initial funding for the regional extension center with most of the funds allocated for direct assistance to providers.

Specifically, CHITREC was selected and awarded through an objective review process by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator of HIT (ONC), as the designated organization in Chicago to support primary health care providers on EHR adoption and meaningful use.

CHITREC serves as a direct pipeline to the national program health IT adoption and brings local expertise to support individual primary care practices, critical access hospitals (CAHs), federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), and other providers with necessary technical assistance for successful EHR implementation.

CHITREC leverages its connection to a national collaborative of regional extension centers (RECs) to provide key insights on EHRs and scalable implementation solutions.

Who does CHITREC serve?

CHITREC is a resource for primary care providers (PCPs) in Chicago (606xx area code). Although we can help any Chicago provider, our focus is on practices of 10 providers or less, or those PCPs who provide care for the uninsured, underinsured and medically underserved. Those PCPs can be eligible for CHITREC direct assistance funding. For more on our programs for providers, visit the Programs section of our website.

What is the range of services the REC provides?

CHITREC brings together a range of standard and individualized services to provider technical assistance in health IT implementation. These services include:

·     Education and training

·     Meaningful Use gap analysis

·     Needs assessment / RFP development

·     Product evaluation, selection consultation and procurement

·     Workflow analysis and redesign

·     Data conversion, including preload and interface development

·     Patient engagement / education

·     Reporting strategy

·     Clinical decision support content and design

·     Post-implementation assessment and optimization

·     E-prescribing implementation

For more on our services, visit our Services section of our website.

How will CHITREC assist providers in achieving MU?

General and technical assistance will be provided to all participating practices. A customized roadmap will be developed for each participant based on the results of a readiness assessment that will be completed at the early stages of participation. Participants will receive tailored assistance for achieving meaningful use based on their assessment.

What are the Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers?

The HIT Regional Extension Centers were established as part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, (Title IV in Division B of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) authorizing financial incentives to Medicare and Medicaid providers’ who achieve meaningful use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology and are funded through as award from the Office of the National Coordinator, Department of Health and Human Services.

The purpose of the Regional Extension Centers (REC) is to provide education, outreach, and technical assistance to priority primary care providers in their region to assist them in selecting, successfully implementing, and achieving meaningful use of certified EHR products.

Why is now the time to work with CHITREC?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or “the stimulus bill,” provides additional Medicaid and Medicare payments to physicians that demonstrate “Meaningful EHR Use” – the foundation of successful EHR implementation.

  • The meaningful use rule is part of a coordinated set of regulations to help create a private and secure 21st-century electronic health information system.
    • 15 core objectives of meaningful use comprise basic functions that enable EHRs to support improved health care. As a start, these tasks include the entry of basic data: patients’ vital signs and demographics, active medications and allergies, up-to-date problem lists of current and active diagnoses, and smoking status. Other core objectives will include using several software applications that begin to realize the true potential of EHRs to improve the safety, quality, and efficiency of care—and to begin extending the benefits of EHRs to patients themselves by providing patients with electronic versions of their health information.
    • In addition to the core elements, practitioners must select from a menu of 10 additional tasks, from which providers can choose any 5 to implement in 2011–2012. This gives providers latitude to pick their own path toward full EHR implementation and meaningful use.
  • Through HITECH, the federal government is committing unprecedented resources to supporting the adoption and use of EHRs. This funding will provide important support to achieve liftoff for the creation of a nationwide system of EHRs. It will make available incentive payments totaling up to $27 billion over 10 years, or as much as $44,000 (through Medicare) and $63,750 (through Medicaid) per clinician.
  • Initial Incentive payments, administered through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, will be made available beginning in January 2011 to eligible providers with EHR systems that focus on: electronic capture of health information in a coded format, use of that information to track key clinical conditions, communicating that information across the care continuum, and reporting clinical quality measures and public health information.

At CHITREC, our number one priority is helping all providers understand and fully take advantage of the window of opportunity to fully realize the benefits of health IT adoption and achieving meaningful use.

  • With our scalable support, we will help you get there efficiently and effectively.
  • Your practice will be geared to achieving the objectives from the very beginning, maximizing payments and minimizing hassle.

There will be a rush for new providers to implement EHRs to take advantage of the incentives because they are time-limited. Vendors will have limited capacity and will start to be overbooked, making CHITREC services all the more valuable as it may ease practice burden while speeding up the implementation process.
Given the fact that most younger providers consider EHRs a necessity in a medical practice, the installment of an EHR system now is an investment in the future value of a medical practice.

  • EHRs require an initial investment of time and money, but providers can save money in the longer run through improved efficiencies, including reductions in the amount of time spent locating paper files, transcribing and spending time on the phone with labs or pharmacies; more accurate coding; and reductions in reporting burden.

Providers around the country are recognizing that, overall, the health care system is rapidly moving toward EHRs.

  • Many hospitals, health plans, and other entities are now supporting Meaningful Use and aligning programs around it.
  • EHRs are an essential component of health care reform related efforts such as Accountable Care Organizations.

About electronic health records (EHRs)

Why is implementing EHRs important?

EHRs and health information exchange can help clinicians provide higher quality and safer care for their patients and create tangible enhancements for their practices. By adopting electronic health records in a meaningful way, clinicians can:

  • Know more about their patients. Information in EHRs can be used to coordinate and improve the quality of patient care across multiple provider settings.
  • Make better decisions. With more comprehensive information readily and securely available, clinicians will have the information they need about treatments and conditions – even best practices for patient populations – when making treatment decisions

What are the benefits of EHRs?

Benefits for providers include:

  • Quick access to patient records from inpatient and remote locations for more coordinated, efficient care
  • Enhanced decision support, clinical alerts, reminders, and medical information
  • Performance-improving tools, real-time quality reporting
  • Legible, complete documentation that facilitates accurate coding and billing
  • Interfaces with labs, registries, other EHRs and Health Information Exchanges (HIEs)
  • Safer, more reliable prescribing

There are also benefits to the patient’s experience:

  • Reduced need to fill out the same forms at each office visit
  • Reliable point-of-care information and reminders notifying providers of important health interventions
  • Convenience of e-prescriptions electronically sent to the pharmacy
  • Patient portals for online interaction with providers
  • Electronic referrals allow for easier access to follow-up care with specialists

For primary health care providers, what are the challenges in implementing EHRs?

Primary care providers may face daunting, yet not insurmountable, challenges when it comes to implementing EHRs in their practices, including:

  • Managing the expense of a system
  • Disruption of workflow and productivity
  • Concerns about technically supporting a system
  • Lack of necessary computer skills
  • Perceptions of negative influence on the physician-patient encounter, maintaining patient- centeredness
  • Having the right IT staffing to install & support a system
  • Managing patient privacy and security concerns
  • Uncertainty over return on investment (ROI)
  • Finding an EHR to meet their needs (usability of EHR)

At CHITREC, we understand the unique challenges of primary care providers, and we work with providers to overcome these challenges to fully realize the benefits of electronic health records in improving efficiencies and patient care.

Who is considered a priority primary care provider?

As defined by the HITECH Act, priority primary care providers are physicians (Internal Medicine, Family Practice, OB/GYN, Pediatrics) and other healthcare professionals (PA, NP, Nurse Midwife) with prescribing privileges in the following settings:

  • Small group practices (10 or less providers)
  • Ambulatory clinics connected with a public or critical access hospital
  • Community health centers and rural health clinics
  • Other ambulatory settings that predominantly serve uninsured, underinsured, and medically underserved populations

About MU and the Medicare & Medicaid Incentive Programs

What Medicare and Medicaid incentives are available for purchase of electronic healthcare systems?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus package includes financial incentives for healthcare providers that achieve meaningful use with an EHR. A maximum of $44,000 per provider is available for Medicare incentives and a maximum of $63,750 per provider for Medicaid. For more information see our Meaningful Use section below.

Who is eligible for the incentives?

Beginning in 2011, primary care providers who meet the following criteria will be eligible for the incentives:
•   Use of a certified EHR to achieve meaningful use;
•   Exchange health information to improve the quality of care; and report on quality measures.

Beginning in 2015, penalties will occur for not meeting the above criteria. For more information, read our Incentive Programs 101.

What is meaningful use?

Use of a certified EHR in a meaningful manner (ex: clinical documentation, e-prescribing, etc.); Use of certified EHR technology for electronic exchange of health information; Use of certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measures. For more information, read our Meaningful Use 101.

About Vendor Relationships

Is CHITREC a competitor to EHR vendors?

No.  CHITREC is vendor neutral.  Although CHITREC delivers various services for providers (from consultation to best practice sharing), CHITREC aims to work collaboratively with both providers and vendors to ensure providers can achieve meaningful use.

What is CHITREC’s strategy for working with vendors?

CHITREC is committed to enabling providers and vendors to work collaboratively towards achieving the meaningful use of EHRs. CHITREC is currently developing open and transparent guidelines for formally engaging vendors based on the on-going activities of: a) market-wide needs assessment of the providers served by CHITREC; and b) vetting with CHITREC legal and ONC stakeholders to insure compliance and consistency with all applicable governmental, institutional, and grant requirements.

When will CHITREC publish formal guidelines for how vendors will be engaged?

CHITREC places the greatest importance on developing and vetting vendor-engagement guidelines as comprehensively and quickly as possible. Doing so will enable all stakeholders, particularly vendors, to most efficiently operate within the CHITREC-enabled ecosystem. Although we are unable to commit to a particular publication date at this time, we will proactively inform all vendors who have registered through the Contact page page on our website.

Click here for an update to the vendor engagement process.

How do I stay up-to-date on the status of CHITREC’s vendor engagement guidelines?

Register your information through the Contact page on our website.