Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers (REC) were born out of the HITECH Act of 2009. These 62 centers, covering specific geographical areas, are designed to facilitate primary care providers' adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR). The RECs involvement may include education, training, implementation and technical assistance. The assistance may come directly from the REC or from an organization in partnership with the REC. Their stated goal is to reach 100,000 priority primary care providers over the next 2 years, with their primary focus on practices with fewer than 10 providers and providers who primarily serve uninsured, underinsured and medically underserved populations.
Their ability to assist is due to HITECH's allocation of $677 million to the nationwide network of RECs, of which each REC received a share in the form of a grant. An additional $32 million was allocated in January 2011 to accelerate EHR adoption and to encourage providers to register for the EHR Incentive Program.
An additional $20 million was directed to 46 RECs in September 2010 designed to support critical access and rural hospitals in their effort to adopt EHR. Supplemental funding of $12 million was allocated for this effort in February 2011.
Throughout 2010, many of the RECs went through the process of choosing "preferred" or "selected" EHR vendors with most choosing between five and 10 companies. Other RECs have chosen to remain vendor-neutral. The level of involvement between a selected vendor and the REC varies. In some cases, the selection of a vendor is simply an endorsement. The vendor implements their software in a practice; only then does the REC step in to provide post-implementation, Meaningful Use-specific support. In his case, there may be little to no vendor/REC operational overlap. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a REC may function as a reseller and/or provide remote hosting services to selected vendors.