Sunday, September 18, 2011

Moving Technology Forward

Rural health networks are going to receive more than $11.9 million to support their adoption of health IT, EHRs, and qualify for CMS incentive payments. Forty grantee organizations will receive about $300,000 to purchase equipment, install broadband networks, and provide training to their staff. Funding will be distributed through HRSA within HHS.

In another HHS action, HRSA Administrator Dr. Mary Wakefield and National Coordinator for HIT, Dr. Fazad Mostashari have announced that $8.5 million is slated to go to 85 community health center programs located in 15 of the 17 Beacon communities to help them adopt HIT, improve coordinated care, and improve the quality of care in these communities.

In a recent announcement, HHS proposed new rules to help patients access their health information. The new rules would empower patients and enable them to gain access to their test results directly from laboratories. The Notice of Proposed rulemaking jointly developed by CMS, HHS Office of Civil Rights, and CDC, proposes to amend the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 regulations and HIPAA privacy regulations to strengthen patients’ rights.

In addition, HHS awarded $10 million made available from the Affordable Care Act to help 129 organizations become community health centers. The funding has been made available so that these health centers will be able to provide a more comprehensive range of primary health care services and be able to expand their services to the larger community.

USDA announced that loans are available to improve 911 and emergency communications services in rural America. USDA in the Federal Register published interim telecommunications loan program eligibility requirements to finance the construction of interoperable and integrated public safety communications networks in rural areas.

Funding will be provided by the Rural Utilities Services (RUS) to enable USDA to speed the rural deployment of dual-use public safety/commercial wireless networks, address homeland security communications needs along rural international borders, and finance enhanced 911 capabilities for carriers and communities.

With these improvements, it will be possible to precisely locate rural wireless 911 calls, contact 911 via text message, or send emergency responders photos or videos of crime scenes or accidents. The new regulation would also give RUS the ability to finance wireless upgrades for public safety and securing.

As for state activities, the Georgia Department of Community Health under the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program is going to award HRSA funding to small rural hospitals in the state for the amount of $512,024 to help them defray costs to implement the Prospective Payment System, Accountable Care Organizations, Payment Bundling, Value Based Purchasing, and provide up-to-date health information systems.

In another project, a data management tool developed at the University of North Dakota is being offered to State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) in all 50 states through a new non-exclusive license agreement with the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH). The online tracking system allows organizations to track activities such as information dissemination, presentations, publications, and services. The system can also monitor time, budget, programs, goals, location, and map activities.