Sunday, August 23, 2009

$1.2 Billion in Grants Rolled Out

Vice President Joe Biden announced that $1.2 billion in grant funding will be used to help hospitals and healthcare providers implement and use electronic health records (EHRs). The rollout provides two HITECH priority grant programs that will establish Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers and help States and Qualified State Designated Entities share information within the emerging nationwide system of networks.

“Expanding the use of EHRs is fundamental to reforming our healthcare system,” said HHS Secretary Sebelius. “Electronic records can help reduce medical errors, make healthcare more efficient, and improve the quality of medical care for all Americans.”

“The grant programs will help healthcare providers select and incorporate EHRs into clinical practice and help the states assure that statewide information exchange is developed with an eye toward nationwide connectivity across the healthcare system”, said Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers with $598 million will support 70 or more regional centers across the country. The centers will offer hospitals and clinicians hands-on technical assistance to support “meaningful use” of certified EHR systems, and focus on clinicians that provide primary care services. The Centers will help medical and healthcare professionals select EHR products, implement a certified EHR product, and help with legal, regulatory, professional, and ethical requirements.

As Dr. Blumenthal points out, the new modern health IT centers can be considered as somewhat akin to the agricultural extension centers Congress set up early in the 20th century to help support vast improvements in the efficiency, quality, and productivity in the agricultural sector. We hope that this 21st century health IT extension program will have a similarly profound effect in helping healthcare providers make a major transition in our nation’s health system, ultimately improving the quality, efficiency, reliability, availability and equity of care for every American.

Grants under the Regional Extension Program will be awarded on a rolling basis with 20 grants expected to be awarded in the first quarter of FY 2010. The initial funding will ensure that comprehensive support is available to providers beginning early in FY 2010, with an additional $5 million available for years 3 and 4 of the program. Federal support will continue for four years and at that point, the program is expected to be self sustaining.

A National Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC) will also be created with an investment of $50 million. The HITRC will help the regional centers collaborate with each other and will serve as a national clearinghouse to identify and share best practices and experiences so that providers can learn from what others have experienced when they put their systems in place.

The State health Information Exchange Grant program with funding of $564 million, will award cooperative agreements to states and qualified state designated entities to advance information sharing across the healthcare system. States may choose to enter into multi-state arrangements but will be required to match grant awards beginning in 2011.

The states are expected to:

• Develop and implement up-to-date privacy and security requirements for HIEs
• Develop directories and technical services to enable interoperability within and across states
• Coordinate with Medicaid and State Public Health Programs to enable information exchange and also to monitor provider participation in HIEs
• Remove barriers that may hinder effective HIEs, particularly those related to interoperability across laboratories, hospitals, clinician offices, health plans, and other HIE partners.
• Ensure that an effective model for HIE governance and accountability is in place
• Convene healthcare stakeholders to support a statewide approach to HIE.

Go to or to for more information on the grants and application requirements.