On April 6, 2010, the Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP) was awarded $5.5 million from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to become Maryland’s only Regional Extension Center (REC). The Extension Program will offer “technical assistance, guidance, and information on best practices to support and accelerate health care providers’ efforts to become meaningful users of Electronic Health Records (EHRs).” With this award, CRISP will enter into contracts with Maryland Managed Service Organizations (MSOs) in order to provide Direct Assistance support to some 1600 primary care providers statewide. Nationally, this ambitious program strives to bring EHR support to a minimum of 100,000 primary care providers using 70 RECs within the next two years. 

Maryland’s REC program is the only program in the nation that is subcontracting the Direct Assistance to MSOs. This unique model is meant to spark the adoption of EHRs throughout the state by allowing regionally managed MSOs to assist providers in their geographic area. MSOs will largely be represented by state hospitals, technology companies and other health care companies that have at least 50% of their workforce residing in Maryland. MSOs stand to receive $3,000 per provider to assist in the implementation and support of EHRs.

In collaboration with CRISP, the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) is encouraging MSOs to become State Designated in order to ensure statewide best practices with regard to EHR workflow redesign, implementation, technical support and education. The State Designation also ensures consistent privacy and confidentiality, system availability, data security, and other patient data safeguards. Under House Bill 706, primary care providers are also eligible to receive additional incentives from private state payers if they receive Direct Assistance from State Designated MSOs.

Specific Meaningful Use criteria that are being defined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are requiring EHRs to be used in consistent ways that foster patient safety, privacy and improved health outcomes. Providers that are able to meet the Meaningful Use criteria will be eligible to receive CMS Medicare and Medicaid incentives. The CRISP REC program will enable primary care providers to reap the benefits of the CMS incentives, and will help Maryland MSOs offset the high costs of implementing and supporting EHRs. This collaborative approach should serve to advance the use of Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) across the state.

Audacious Inquiry is excited to be engaged with CRISP and its partners on this enterprising move to get Maryland primary care providers to Meaningful Use within the next two years. You can read more about CRISP and get updates on Maryland’s REC by visiting