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Columbus – The Ohio University/Appalachian Health Information Exchange Regional Extension Center (OU/AHIE REC) is the first of seven regional extension centers in the state to reach 100 percent of its target goal of signing up 404 primary care physicians and healthcare providers for electronic health record (EHR) adoption since last fall.

For a job well done in a rural community where connectivity can be a challenge, there’s now room for 100 more southeast Ohio primary care providers to sign up. Ohio University recently received an additional $450,000 when the Ohio Health Information Partnership redistributed funding to allow more primary care providers in the Appalachian region to take part in the program.

“Time is short on getting these funds. I encourage physicians not to put this off. There is no better time,” said Brian Phillips, director of the OU/AHIE REC and chief of medical informatics at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM).

Primary care providers who wish to access technical assistance to implement EHR should visit the Ohio Health Information Partnership’s website, There they can find their regional extension center contact that can help them navigate the EHR process.
Primary care physicians – those who practice obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, family medicine or internal medicine -- and nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and physician assistants with the authority to prescribe medications are eligible for the assistance, Phillips explained.

“Rural communities such as those found in southeast Ohio were basically thrown a lifeline from the REC grant opportunity,” said Steven Davies, chief executive officer of Athens-based University Medical Associates, Inc., one of the participating organizations.

“The expense of implementing an EHR without assistance from the REC grant would likely have driven quite a few providers in this area out of practice, or at least out of this area, creating a vacuum of care. The value the REC grant opportunity has brought our communities is amazing, and our patient communities deserve the best. There has always been a spirit of collaboration among medical providers in southeast Ohio, and the engagement of so many providers from this area in the REC grant is a perfect demonstration of this,” Davies said.

Sky L. Gettys, chief financial officer of the Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster and a member of AHIE, said, “We appreciate the resources that the REC has brought to us. The partnership has been invaluable in assisting with the implementation and interconnectivity within our community.”

In addition to free services, physicians who adopt electronic health records can receive up to $44,000 through Medicare and $63,700 through Medicaid financial incentives over the next several years.

OU/AHIE REC serves 19 counties and is one of seven partners across the state that provide, free of charge, services for primary care physicians and other healthcare professionals to prepare for the selection and adoption of electronic health records.

In 2010, the seven regional organizations received federal stimulus funds from the Office of the National Coordinator of HIT to assist in the implementation of electronic health records, with an ultimate goal of better meeting state and national electronic medical record initiatives. Of the $26.8 million provided to the seven sites around Ohio, OU/AHIE REC received $1.8 million to assist 404 primary care providers. Of the 6,000 positions available statewide, 4,837 physicians have already signed up.

The healthcare community in southeast Ohio came together to claim the number one spot because they’ve been convening and working with one another to integrate health information technology (HIT) and provide care coordination for the past six years.

"Physicians and hospitals in Southeast Ohio have had a common vision for adopting health information technology since 2004, when the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine was awarded a planning grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a health informatics consortium," said Jon Wills, executive director of the Ohio Osteopathic Association and vice chair of the Ohio Health Information Partnership’s Board. 

"This milestone shows the region's commitment to using electronic health records to decrease healthcare costs, improve quality and increase access to healthcare services throughout Appalachian Ohio."

The area’s success is largely due to the active role of the consortium, the Appalachian Health Information Exchange (AHIE), which is a voluntary association of 20 healthcare provider organizations that have been integrating health information technology to improve the lives of its communities since 2005.

At the national level, federal leaders would like to reach 100,000 physicians, with a focus on providers who serve the uninsured, underserved, and rural populations in each state. Kathy Jefford, the coordinator for the REC, said she is signing up rural and mental health centers, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and small physician practices that have the least resources.


“The Appalachian group has helped the community to communicate,” Jefford said. “Providers are talking to providers. They’re getting information in multiple ways. This smaller community needs this connectivity because Appalachia sees more Medicaid, uninsured, and indigents.”
Phillips said the services provided to Ohio physicians and hospitals help them to develop strategic, long-range business plans that will ultimately benefit both healthcare providers and patients.

“Nobody knows their communities and patients better than hospitals, physicians and allied health providers,” Phillips said. “Health care is local. That is where the primary care physicians provide services, that’s where hospitals provide services, and much of specialty care is referred out. Physicians and providers live in this community. As we move to utilize health information exchange, it will enhance each community’s capability to provide a medical home for our patients, with the infrastructure to create communities of healthcare providers.”

To receive free regional extension services in Southeast Ohio, contact Phillips or Jefford at