Florida makes a move to a health IT network

Florida is moving ahead with its plan to build the Florida Health Information Network (FHIN), a state equivalent to the national network that President Bush proposed last year.

The state has launched a $1.5 million grants program to help kick off health information exchange projects and support doctors and other medical practitioners with the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs).

The FHIN plan could get a boost if the state's proposal for $9.2 million in federal funding in response to the federal Department of Health and Human Services' request for proposals is accepted. The RFP, released in June, is for projects that will aid in the construction of the National Health Information Network.

HHS is expected to announce its awards in September or October.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush created the Health Information Infrastructure Advisory Board in May 2004 to support the state Agency for Health Care Administration's (AHCA) development of the FHIN infrastructure.

Earlier this year, the board issued an interim report in which it identified the low number of health care providers who use EHRs and the lack of infrastructure to share records as the two biggest obstacles to implementing the FHIN.

A new nonprofit company, Florida Health Information Network Inc., which the advisory board formed in March, will oversee the FHIN.

The advisory board is expected to finalize the $1.5 million Florida grants program, which is separate from any award the state may receive from HHS, at an Aug. 3 meeting, said Lisa Rawlins, bureau chief for the State Center for Health Statistics.

AHCA will put out the first call for grant applications Sept. 1. Applications for the grants, which will be for 50-50 matching funds of $120,000 to $500,000 each, will be due at the end of that month.

Separate grants will be awarded for projects that support development of a written plan for the FHIN, projects that support implementation and evaluation of health information exchange projects, and training and technical assistance for practitioners in primary care, office-based settings who want to adopt EHRs.

The goal is to announce which applications have been accepted sometime in November or December, Rawlins said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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