Originally written for HIMSS Digital Office. The article can be viewed HIMSS Article.
Learning More About: Qualis Health, the Washington & Idaho Regional Extension Center – WIREC
by Tony Khuu
Member, Digital Office Task Force
Member, Digital Office Task Force
The Digital Office talked with Peggy Evans, PhD, CPHIT, and Director, for the Washington & Idaho Regional Extension Center. In 2010, Qualis Health was awarded up to $12.8 million from HHS to establish a healthcare technology regional extension Center for the states of Idaho and Washington, to support healthcare providers with successful electronic health record adoption and meaningful use.
Dr. Evans testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee of Health, on Tuesday, July 27, 2010, in Washington, DC, about the WIREC. She also joined David Blumenthal, MD, former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and several others on two panels of witnesses.
Before taking the role of director (for WIREC), Dr. Evans’ experience includes a decade supporting small physician practices with EHR adoption through various consulting roles. In addition, Dr. Evans has worked with government-funded grants, including in 2006, when she served as project director for an ONC-funded project, the Health Information and Security and Privacy Collaboration (HIPSC), which supported finding solutions to privacy and security issues related to HIE.
The interview follows in a Q/A format.
Peggy Evans, PhD
Q. Can you provide a brief overview of your work with the Washington & Idaho Regional Extension Center?
Qualis Health is the Washington & Idaho Regional Extension Center.
WIREC provides technical assistance, guidance, vendor-neutral EHR adoption services and information to eligible healthcare professionals to help them achieve meaningful use of EHRs and qualify for CMS incentive payments.
- Our goal is to provide assistance to 2,369 providers to achieve meaningful use.
- We currently have about 1,700 providers that are signed to the WIREC program, and that number continues to grow.
- 70 percent of our providers do not have electronic health records.
Our primary objective is to provide direct assistance for providers that are in any stage of EHR adoption, from pre-implementation to post-implementation, and help them move down the continuum.
I direct a program of about 15 staff, of which 10 are field staff directly assisting providers with technical consulting. My background in health IT consulting allows me to understand the technical consulting work, and also provide a strategic vision for the WIREC program.
I have wonderful staff that very much understands EHR adoption and the importance of workflow redesign and continuous quality improvement in successfully reaching meaningful use.
Q. How do you reach the physicians in your state?
We reach physicians through multiple channels.
- Presentations to various stakeholder groups about the WIREC program;
- Educational seminars;
- Publications and social media;
- Strong collaborations with state and regional organizations that support providers; and
- Monthly webinar series on topics related to reaching meaningful use, the “Getting Paid for Using Your EHR” series.
Additionally, we support group purchase activities, conduct collaborative workflow redesign workshops, facilitate peer-to-peer networking, and of course, conduct direct health IT consulting with WIREC-enrolled providers.
Monthly Webinar Series: “Getting Paid for Using Your EHR”
Our free webinar series is designed to teach providers and stakeholders about achieving meaningful use. Topics have included: successful contract negotiation with contract vendors, change management, privacy and security, and EHRs and meaningful use.
Our webinar calendar is on the event page on the WIREC website (www.wirecQH.org). In May, we will discuss the Washington and Idaho Medicaid incentive programs, talking about the registration process. In June, we are planning a webinar on engaging patients and family members in their own care.
We are also introducing group purchasing, which should go a long way for physician practices that do not currently have an EHR. An independent stakeholder group comprised of people from our targeted population assisted us with pre-vetting EHR vendors that would offer the best feature set, service level agreements and pricing structure for WIREC-enrollees.
Group Purchasing Benefits include:
- Pre-negotiated rates;
- Pre-negotiated service level agreements; and
- A contract template that allows for a starting point in additional negotiations.
If you have never done a contract negotiation with an EHR vendor, you may miss some important things to discuss at the outset of signing a contract. WIREC’s group purchase program offers providers valuable insights in this process.
Q. What have you seen as the ‘aha’ moments from physicians, nurses or any attendee at your programs…in other words, how has this educational effort helped move clinicians and others closer to adopting health IT?
The major “aha” moment has been that reaching meaningful use is not a technology project, per se, even though the objective is to successfully use health IT. The major aspects of reaching meaningful use are actually about:
- facilitating a culture of change management at the practice;
- analyzing workflow; and
- redesigning clinical processes so that human staff is optimally interacting with the EHR systems.
Q. Do you work with other RECs, and if so, how?
The ONC has done a really good job of creating an infrastructure for all 62 RECs to communicate with each other. HITREC has been instrumental in assisting the RECs to disseminate best practice information.
Additionally, the ONC/HITREC supports multiple Communities of Practice or CoP. It is another way for RECs to talk to each other and make sure they are sharing critical information on supporting providers on health IT adoption. ONC also provides weekly updates for all CoP activities, which is a lovely way to encapsulate all the things that have been happening with the multiple communities of practice.
Q. From your previous work in health IT, how has the REC improved getting to all those in the state involved with implementing the EHR? Can you see improvements?
There has been incredibly tight coordination among different entities with ARRA/HITECH funding, including WIREC, a statewide HIE, the Beacon grant, workforce development and others. The statewide health IT coordinator has done a great job in facilitating these collaborations.
Peggy Evans, PhD, CPHIT, is the Director of the Washington & Idaho Regional Extension Center. She is responsible for overseeing both states’ efforts to promote adoption of electronic health records and meeting meaningful use.
Tony Khuu is the HIMSS Ambulatory Health Information Systems intern.
Back to News