Stimulus funds to pay for EHRs at federal centers

Obama administration announces $88 million for EHR systems

The Obama administration is distributing $88 million in economic stimulus law funding to federally supported health centers to pay for new electronic health records and other health information technology systems.

The digital record funding comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration from its pool of $1.5 billion in stimulus money to update buildings and systems at the 1,100 health centers nationwide, according to a Dec. 9 news release. Those centers serve 17 million uninsured or underinsured people.

The $88 million will go to Health Center Controlled Networks, which are electronic networks established by three or more health centers to share core business functions. About 53 such networks now exist.

Earlier this month, the Health and Human Services Department announced it would provide $235 million in stimulus funding to communities that can serve as "beacons" demonstrating the meaningful use of health IT.

In addition, the administration announced that Medicare will operate a three-year Medical Home demonstration project for 500 federally qualified health centers.

The Medical Home is a concept in which a primary care doctor, such as a general practitioner, manages care for a patient. In such practices, each patient has an assigned doctor to help coordinate specialists to provide integrated care.

Assuming the Medical Home project is successful, it could be a feature of health care reform to help manage costs as well as to improve quality, said Dr. David Kibbe, a health care consultant.

“In the Bush administration, almost no one was willing to talk about the costs of care,” Kibbe said. Now there is an emerging consensus, he said, “that physicians should be paid for delivering quality care rather than on the quantity of care they provide.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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