Sunday, March 30, 2008

HRSA Discusses Plans

In a speech before the recent National Association of Community Health Centers Forum, HRSA Administrator Elizabeth M. Duke outlined some current plans for the agency. She emphasized that in FY 2008, HRSA will continue to support the development of new sites and the expansion of services.

So far, HRSA is supporting:

· 42 New Access Point awards, worth about $25 million with more than 250 applications received
· 20 Expanded Medical Capacity grants, worth about $10 million with 220 applications received
· 160 grants worth $30 million for Service Expansion. The breakdown is 60 grants for Mental Health/Substance Abuse grants, 60 Oral Health grants, and 40 Pharmacy grants. 600 applications were received
· 25 planning grants worth $2 million with 100 planning grants received

In addition, HRSA will continue to implement health IT by awarding $20 million in grants to Health Center Controlled Networks. The agency expects to award more than $7 million to current grantees to continue ongoing projects with $13 million in new grants. The agency has already awarded HIT planning, implementation, and innovation grants worth $3 million. HRSA is going to make available $10 million on one time High Impact Grants to help health center networks or large health centers implement HIT systems.

According to Duke, the HRSA FY 2009 proposed budget would provide a $26 million increase to health centers to just over $2 billion. The increase would fund up to 40 new health centers in high poverty areas that currently have no health center sites and up to 25 planning grants to help community-based organization in these areas win grants in future competitions.

As for quality, the HRSA agenda is focusing on improving patient outcomes. HRSA has selected its first set of “Core Clinical Quality Performance and Improvement Measures”. The goal was to develop Core measure that could be reported on by all HRSA programs that deliver direct clinical care. The first set of six Core measures have been incorporated into the 2008 UDS reporting, and will be due in mid 2009.

HRSA’s Center for Quality and Office of Pharmacy Affairs is moving forward on the new “Patient Safety and Pharmacy Collaborative” to improve health outcomes, patient safety, and to increase clinical pharmacy services. The Collaborative was launched in 2007, and since then HRSA teams have been visiting high performing health centers, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations to see how they maintain good outcomes for their patients. This study process will conclude as the end of April.

In keeping with HRSA’s goal to help underserved populations, a new rule “Designation of Medically Underserved Populations and Health Professional Shortage Areas” was proposed in the February 29th issue of the Federal Register. Basically, the new rule will improve the way that underserved areas and populations are designated and target federal resources to the people and communities that need them the most. Comments on the rule will be accepted within the 60 day period following the Federal Register announcement.