HHS offers funds to boost use of IT

The Health and Human Services Department will provide financial incentives to push the health care industry toward greater use of IT.

As part of a major initiative to improve health care through the use of IT, the government is adopting and promoting medical information and product standards, and sharing its own electronic health systems with physician groups and hospitals.

HHS secretary Tommy Thompson recently unveiled strategies to get medical providers and insurers to use health care IT as a means to improve patient care and reduce costs:
  • The department will this month release a request for information on the requirements for a health information network. HHS envisions a national health information infrastructure composed of interoperable local and regional health information networks.

  • HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded $2.3 million in seed funds to nine regional health information organizations, including in Indianapolis; Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Waltham, Mass. This is in addition to $50 million in grants to be awarded by HHS’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in September to demonstrate the value of health care IT in hospitals, clinics and physician practices.

  • HHS is considering ways to work with industry to develop standards for electronic health records, including interoperability and security. HHS would like to see more technical support for physicians, especially those with small practices, to ensure that they implement technology successfully with the least disruption to their business.

  • HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is piloting a Medicare beneficiary portal in Indiana to give seniors access to health records and information about their medical claims and later preventive care information.

  • The Veterans Affairs Department will make a version of its VistA electronic health records system available to private physicians and hospitals at a nominal cost beginning in late 2005.

  • The Office of Personnel Management, which purchases health insurance for millions of federal employees, may press medical providers to use health care systems. Such incentives may include charging service fees or establishing performance goals linked to the use of electronic records, registries and prescriptions.
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