HHS sends $411 million to grass-roots IT projects
The $411 million awarded by HHS for health information technology is planned to ease the journey for primary-care providers, encourage research for advances in the long term and advance the effort to train experts in health IT.
HHS health IT awards announced since April 2 were: $267 million in funding for regional extension centers; $60 million for advanced research projects (April 5, p. 4); $36 million for developing community college training programs; $32 million for university-level training; $10 million for curriculum development in the community college program; and $6 million for the development and initial administration of a health IT competency pro- gram. Funding comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus law.
The money allocated to 28 regional extension centers is a second wave of awards, and follows $375 million awarded to 32 centers in February. “We recognize that small hospitals, especially during difficult times, have trouble finding the resources and expertise needed to become adept at using health IT,” said David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health IT, in an April 6 conference call.
The extension centers will provide technical support services and information to at least 100,000 providers during the next two years, HHS said in a news release. Staff at the centers will actively recruit providers, assist them in choosing and implementing electronic health-record systems, and will also help them band together to get better rates from vendors, Blumenthal said on the conference call. Following implementation, centers may ramp up involvement, scheduling monthly check-ins for workflow adjustments and redesigns.
HHS announced that all 60 centers would also be able to apply for funds from a $25 million supplemental expansion program created to provide health IT support services to critical-access and rural hospitals with 50 beds or fewer.
The training funds are designed to support the use of EHRs. “The institutions receiving awards today will develop necessary road maps to help healthcare providers and hospitals implement and effectively use electronic health records,” Blumenthal said in a written statement.
Charles Friedman, chief scientific officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said he expects results in a few years from the Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects. “You never know what’s going to result from what you fund directly, but I can tell you now, the synergies have an enormous chance of paying dividends above and beyond the funding of these groups,” Friedman said.
Friedman: Projects likely to result in great dividends.