Electronic Health Records to Receive $1.2B Federal Boost

Electronic Health Records to Receive $1.2B Federal Boost

The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday that almost $1.2 billion in grants will become available to U.S.-based nonprofit institutions to create regional centers for the use of electronic health records. These centers are to be the basis of a nationwide health information exchange. These four-year grants will be funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and be available in fiscal year 2010.

This program is part of the Health Information Technology Extension Program, and aims to support at least 70 regional centers throughout the country. Each center must support at least 100,000 primary care providers through participating nonprofit organizations.

David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said in a release that the programs and grants are designed to start the process of creating a national electronic health records system.

“With these programs, we begin the process of creating a national, private and secure electronic health information system. The grants are designed to help doctors and hospitals acquire electronic health records and use them in meaningful ways to improve the health of patients and reduce waste and inefficiency,” Blumenthal said.

He went on to say that the program will help individual states create a much needed infrastructure for electronic health records.

“The[se programs] will also help states lead the way in creating the infrastructure for health information exchange, which enables information to follow patients within and across communities, wherever the information is needed to help doctors and patients make the best decisions about medical care,” he said.

As part of the Obama Administration’s comment to economic recovery and electronic health records, a national Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC) is being created. Funded separately, the Center will gather relevant information on effective practices from a wide variety of sources across the country and help the Regional Centers collaborate with one another and with relevant stakeholders to identify and share best practices in EHR adoption, effective use, and provider support.

One of the aims of the program is to provide access to health information technology for underserved and special needs populations. Each Regional Center will be evaluated every two years by an HHS-appointed panel of experts.

Twenty grants will be awarded in the first quarter of fiscal year 2010, 25 in the third quarter, and the rest in the fourth quarter. Federal money will continue for four years, after which a program is expected to be self-sustaining financially.

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