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Health plan steers extension centers to small practices

By Mary Mosquera

A managed care health insurer wants to help regional health IT extension centers with their support of small physician practices that treat low income and underserved patients, which it fears could fly under the radar of the newly-formed organizations.

"The extension centers don't know who all those small practices are," said Joe Miller, director of e-business at AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies, which covers Medicaid patients in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, New Jersey and South Carolina.

"We want them to target their marketing to attract those practices in our provider network," he said at the World Health Care Congress April 13.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has awarded grants to set up 60 extension centers across the nation to offer hands-on assistance to providers in putting EHRs into practice. One of ONCs goals is to give small providers the technical resources they need to meet meaningful use requirements in order to qualify for incentive payments under the HITECH Act.

AmeriHealth has started discussions with one of the recently awarded extension centers in Pennsylvania to identify where they can collaborate to assist small practices in its network.

A key to retaining small practices that treat Medicaid and underserved patients is giving them all the support they need, Miller said. Half of AmeriHealth Mercy's members receive care from practices with fewer than 10 physicians.

"We can't afford to lose any of those practices," he said.

Enormous variation in technology adoption exists among the providers across its plans. But solo practitioners and small practices may just be too busy to be aware of the assistance offered through the extension centers, he said, or believe they do not have the resources to deploy electronic health records.

"To the degree that we can be the connecting point or conduit between our provider network and the extension centers, we want to be that," he said.

Added Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 by Government Health IT

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