HHS doles out tech grants

Department of Health and Human Services

Department of Health and Human Services officials announced nearly $140 million in grants for states, communities, hospitals and health care providers to promote the use of information technology, develop statewide and regional networks, and push collaboration.

"I view these awards as a building block to advance the adoption of electronic health records," David Brailer, national health IT coordinator, said in an Oct. 13 press release. "These projects will encourage real-world laboratories for innovation and provide models for other organizations as we move forward in developing an electronic health record."

More than 100 communities, hospitals, providers and health care systems in 38 states will receive $96 million over three years — including $41 in the first year — toward developing and using health IT. Awards will be focused on small and rural hospitals and communities.

Five states — Colorado, Indiana, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Utah — will get a total of $25 million over five years to develop secure statewide networks so private patient medical information can be accessed. Participants include major purchasers of health care, public and private payers, hospitals, ambulatory care facilities, home health care providers, and long-term care providers.

The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago was awarded a two-year, $18.5 million contract to create a National Health Information Technology Resource Center to offer technical assistance and tools and a repository for best practices. The resource center also would provide a focus for collaboration to grantees and other federal partners. The contract is renewable for up to three years.

This year, federal officials and other health advocates are heavily promoting the use of technology in facilitating electronic information exchange. Brailer and other HHS officials this summer unveiled a 10-year national health care information infrastructure plan, "Decade of Health Information Technology," to transform the industry and lower health care costs. They have repeatedly said better use of such technology could save lives.

For example, an interoperable health IT infrastructure would improve care and reduce medical errors, which result in 44,000 to 98,000 deaths each year, according to federal statistics. Electronic health records potentially could save between $78 billion and $112 billion a year by reducing tests and improving administrative procedures.

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