6.2010, PSM awarded $19.3 Million to Establish REC

Ponce Medical School Foundation, Inc.
Awarded $19,280,796 to Establish Regional Extension Center

San Juan - Today, the Honorable Lorenzo Gonzalez, Secretary of Health for Puerto Rico congratulated the Ponce School of Medicine (PSM) and its President and Dean, Dr. Joxel Garcia on being awarded $19,280,796 to establish a Regional Extension Center that will serve Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The award covers two years of a four-year cooperative agreement established by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, Office the National Coordinator (ONC).

National Vision for Regional Extension Centers
ONC has established a nationwide network of 60 Regional Extension Centers (RECs), each serving a defined geographic area, with the goal of helping 100,000 priority primary care physicians (PCPs) adopt and successfully implement health information technology (health IT). RECs provide outreach, education and technical assistance to priority PCPs. [Priority primary care physicians are doctors who serve the medically underserved, Medicare and Medicaid patients and typically practice in solo or small practitioner offices.]

The PSM Regional Extension Center will disperse and expand the use and expertise of health IT to increase the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of healthcare with Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. PSM formed a strategic alliance with the College of Physicians and Surgeons and a robust consortium of collaborating organizations, including professional medical associations, insurance companies, educational institutions, quality improvement and health IT consulting organizations in order to implement electronic health records throughout the practices of priority providers.

Ponce School of Medicine and Ponce Medical School Foundation, Inc.
The Ponce School of Medicine, an LCME accredited private non-profit school founded in 1977 is one of the most prestigious medical schools with Hispanic heritage in the western hemisphere and is recognized for its strong support of graduate medical education. In addition to Medical Education Program (MD Program), PSM also holds nationally accredited graduate programs in the disciplines of Psychology, Clinical Psychology, and Biomedical Sciences, and a Masters Degree in Public Health.

In order to provide continuity to the MD Program, a group of lay and professional leaders in southern Puerto Rico established the Ponce Medical School Foundation Inc., a non-profit organization in January 1980, to operate the Ponce School of Medicine. “The Ponce School of Medicine is perfectly positioned to assist in this vital national effort of assisting doctors in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Implementing electronic medical records helps to improve healthcare quality by reducing medical errors, increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and expanding access to affordable care. We look forward to continue serving our communities and improve their health while we help strengthen our local and national economy through the creation of new jobs in research, science and information technology industries,” said Dr. Joxel Garcia, President and Dean of Ponce School of Medicine.

Ponce School of Medicine Regional Extension Center

The PSM Regional Extension Center, with the help of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and its strategic partners, will work diligently to empower all 4,100 PCPs within Puerto Rico and 40 within the U.S. Virgin Islands to become “meaningful users” of Electronic Heath Records.

Dr. Alicia Feliberti Irrizary, President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, said “the College reiterates its commitment to the task of implementing Health Information Technology (HIT) at the national level. To attain this objective, a Consortium has been created with the Ponce School of Medicine for the design and implementation of a system which will place our health system at the forefront of informatics through electronic health records and technology."

"We are pleased that we are moving forward with establishing the Regional Extension Center in Puerto Rico. It will certainly initiate electronic health information sharing among our providers. People in Puerto Rico deserve technology aimed at promoting efficiency, capturing potential errors and avoiding duplicity in medical services. The Regional Extension Center will educate providers in our area on incentives for which they are eligible before and after they adopt health information technology, at lower costs, not to mention, promote exchange of lessons learned to curtail possible implementation impacts," said Secretary of Health, Lorenzo Gonzalez.

The PSM REC will also participate in the national Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC), which was established by ONC to gather relevant information on effective practices and help the 60 regional centers collaborate with each another and relevant stakeholders for the purpose of identifying and sharing best practices in EHR adoption, effective use, and provider support.

The PSM REC will also work in close collaboration with the Health Information Exchange (HIE) development teams in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to ensure a consistent and seamless approach to electronic health record expansion throughout the region. HIEs are responsible for developing the method by which information is exchanged. This partnership will provide an unambiguous support network for providers as they expand their use of electronic health records and achieve the goals of improved health care for the citizens of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Congresswoman Donna Christensen voiced her support of the joint island project saying “I am pleased that Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will be at the forefront of the development of these innovations...Health information technology is a major feature of health reform which is designed to provide more efficient, targeted care to patients and to have more accurate record keeping that will help to lower costs.”

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