HHS awards $139 million to drive adoption of health care IT

The Health and Human Services Department today announced $139 million in grants and contracts to promote the use of health IT and take the department another step closer to electronic health records for all Americans.

"Increased adoption of information technology will speed the transformation of health care services in this nation," said HHS secretary Tommy Thompson of the grants awarded through HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

"I view these awards as a building block to advance the adoption of electronic health records," said Dr. David Brailer, national coordinator for Health Information Technology. "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," he said.

The grants are intended to provide insight into how best to use health IT to:

  • Improve patient safety by reducing medication errors

  • Increase the use of shared health information between providers, laboratories, pharmacies and patients

  • Help ensure safer patient transitions between health care settings including hospitals, doctors' offices and nursing homes

  • Reduce duplicative and unnecessary testing.

"These grants will provide the momentum needed to move forward with the creation of a safer U.S. health care system based on proven health information technologies, especially in the rural and small communities where the need is so great," said AHRQ director Dr. Carolyn Clancy. She said she hopes health care systems across the country learn from the grantees' experiences and follow their lead.

The $139 million will be used:

  • To promote access to health care IT with more than 100 grants to communities, hospitals, providers and health care systems in all phases of the development and use of health IT. The grants will be spread across 38 states, with a special focus on small and rural hospitals and communities. First-year funding is $41 million and will total nearly $96 million over three years.

  • To develop statewide and regional networks with five-year contracts to five states or their designees to help develop statewide networks that are secure, ensure privacy of health information and make an individual’s health information more available to health care providers. The five states are Colorado, Indiana, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Utah. Participants include major purchasers of health care, public and private payers, hospitals, ambulatory care facilities, home health care providers and long-term care providers. First-year funding is $1 million for each state

  • and will total $25 million over the course of the contracts.
  • To encourage adoption of health IT through sharing knowledge. A newly created National Health Information Technology Resource Center is designed to be a repository for best practices and aid grantees with technical assistance and a focus for collaboration. The center will also distribute software to help providers explore the adoption and use of health IT to improve patient safety and quality of care. The two-year contract, renewable for up to three years, was awarded to NORC, a national organization for research at the University of Chicago. First-year funding is $4 million, with an estimated value of $18.5 million over the course of the contract.

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