UNC-based AHEC program awarded $13.6 million to help doctors adopt electronic health records

The North Carolina Area Health Education Centers program (AHEC) has been awarded $13.6 million to help primary care health-care providers adopt electronic health records and other health information technology.

The grant is part of national initiative announced recently by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve the quality and efficiency of health care. The initiative awarded nearly $750 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to advance the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology.

The AHEC program, based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, will use the grant to establish a regional extension center.

AHEC will use its existing regional infrastructure to hire and train more than 40 new positions in nine regions across the state to provide on-site technical assistance to primary care providers.

Over two years, the center will assist at least 3,465 providers to adopt and optimize their use of electronic health records. More than 6,300 providers will have access to education, library and quality improvement assistance.

The center will help with issues such as practice workflow and redesign, selecting and implementing electronic health records systems, and privacy and security training. It will also offer providers the opportunity to group purchase approved electronic health records products.

The project will be led by Dr. Tom Bacon, AHEC program director, and Dr. Sam Cykert, associate professor of medicine at UNC and program director for internal medicine at Moses Cone Hospital and Greensboro AHEC. Ann Lefebvre, AHEC associate director for statewide quality improvement, will serve as the center’s executive director.

“The North Carolina AHEC Program is delighted to be taking the lead on the regional extension center for North Carolina,” Bacon said. “Working with our collaborators, we look forward to supporting the primary care providers in the state as they take advantage of new technologies including electronic health records to enhance their practice, improve health outcomes and better serve the people of North Carolina.” Bacon also is executive associate dean and research professor of social medicine in the UNC School of Medicine, clinical professor of health policy and management in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and a senior fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

For more information, see http://www.med.unc.edu/ahec/pubs/rec_announcement.htm.

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