Clinicians implementing certified EHRs that meet federal meaningful use requirements are eligible for Medicare incentives up to $44,000 or Medicaid incentives up to $63,750 beginning in 2011.


Working with a GCREC consultant these two family medicine physicians from Willacy County are implementing a new EHR (electronic health record) in preparation for stimulus funding eligibility.  Both physicians feel that their consultant spent the time needed to establish good rapport with their practice and provided non-biased and knowledgeable advice.

Smith pointed out that their consultant from Texas Medical Foundation (TMF) Health Quality Institute, an EHR implementation subcontractor with the GCREC, was not afraid to make comments and give critiques of the vendor presentations.  Robinson added that the consultants have attended the big HIT (health information technology) conferences that the providers don’t have time to attend and that they can bring that knowledge to the partnership.  Both felt that their consultant was very thorough and helped them understand the functionality.  For example, she demonstrated which EHRs might require big customizing fees to make them work for the practice.

While the consultants provide free consulting to the practices, membership in the Gulf Coast Regional Extension Center isn’t completely free.  Each provider pays $300 per year for membership, but, as Dr. Smith says, “he has nothing negative to say” about the services. For providers without an EHR, such as Smith and Robinson, the consultant provides:

●      Practice Assessment: a complete practice assessment (the practices/providers are given a somewhat lengthy questionnaire) with a narrative report of findings and a project plan

●      Workflow Process Mapping: a “current” state workflow process mapping is completed during the initial visits and change processes may be mapped for/after EHR implementation. The consultant observes the providers and office staff go about what is hopefully a somewhat typical day – following the complete patient visit process (with permission of all involved) including scheduling, check-in and intake, exam and check-out, through the financial process.

●      Vendor Selection:  At the conclusion of the workflow process mapping, the consultant makes suggestions on EHR products that may be a good fit for the practice’s needs and assists with setting up any vendor demonstrations in which the practices would like to participate.  TMF offers patient scenarios and vendor evaluation tools to assist the providers during the vendor demos – for easier comparison.

●      EHR Product Implementation:  When the vendor begins implementation, TMF steps back, but remains in contact with practice and vendor representatives to assist as needed.

●      Post Implementation Analysis/Federal Funding Attestation: After EHR implementation, TMF will return to for a post go-live assessment and gap analysis, as well as assisting again when the practice is ready for attestation to the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), providers of the stimulus funds.

For providers currently having an EHR, GCREC consultants do all of the above, except EHR product suggestions, unless the providers request to see additional products.  The services they provide revolve completely around the practices/providers and their interests/needs with a goal of supporting the providers toward qualifying for the stimulus funds.

The GCREC offers assistance to physicians in achieving “meaningful use” of their EHR.  The Regional Extension Centers (REC) were developed under contract with the CMS to provide coaching to physicians adopting EHR and Meaningful Use and are patterned after the old agricultural extension centers of the 1950s.  There are 4 REC regions in Texas, with the Rio Grande Valley being serviced by the GCREC.

Any primary care physician who meets the criteria can qualify for membership in the REC and the nearly free consulting services. Information about eligible provider criteria and membership in the GCREC is available in our local area by calling (956) 389-5570 or Toll Free (855) 825-5399 or by email at