The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued four final Recovery grants for two programs intended to promote the development and use of electronic health care records (EHR, sometimes referred to as electronic medical records or EMR). Recovery grants for Regional Extension Centers now total 62, up from 60; grants for Beacon Community Cooperative Agreements now total 17, up from 15.
The Recovery Act includes a provision “to improve American health care delivery and patient care through an unprecedented investment in health information technology.” Completely separate from the health care legislation that Congress passed last March, the provision in the Act focuses primarily on facilitating wide deployment of EHR among health care administrators and providers across the country.
According to HHS, broad use of health IT – particularly EHR – has the potential to improve the quality of health care, prevent medical errors, increase efficiency of care, reduce unnecessary health care costs, increase administrative efficiencies, decrease paperwork, and expand access to affordable care.
HHS has developed nine Recovery grant programs intended to build the foundation for the interconnected EHR system. The HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is supervising the programs, which, as a whole, represent $2 billion in Recovery funds devoted to establishing both a nationwide EHR system and a new workforce to be trained in health IT by 2014.
Regional Extension Centers
ONC has awarded Regional Extension Center (REC) grants totaling almost $653 million in Recovery funds that are now beginning to be distributed to nonprofit healthcare-related institutions, some specifically created to be Regional Extension Centers. The mission of these Centers will be to counsel and assist local doctors, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, and other providers on how best to develop and use EHR. The grants are intended to cover operating costs for the first four years, after which the centers are expected to be self-sustaining through state and private revenue sources. Collectively, Regional Extension Centers are expected to support upward of 100,000 primary-care providers nationwide.
As a result of a $28.5 million grant and $17.9 million in state funds, the Ohio Health Information Partnership was established by the Ohio Hospital Association, the Ohio Osteopathic Association, the Ohio State Medical Association, BioOhio, and a number of related state agencies. The partnership is a collaboration between nonprofit and state officials in Columbus and will be one of two Regional Extension Centers focusing on health IT in general and Electronic Health Records in particular in Ohio.
The nonprofit healthcare-policy agency Quality Insights of Pennsylvania (QIP) focuses on helping state healthcare providers improve Medicare services. QIP, which has offices in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and King of Prussia, received $44 million in grants to become the sole Regional Extension Center in the Keystone State.
The final two REC award recipients: CalOptima Foundation, covering Orange County, CA, and Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, covering the state of New Hamshire.
Beacon Community Cooperative Agreements
The Beacon Community grant program is intended to help communities increase health care quality and efficiency, and thus become “beacons” of health care in their regions. The grants underwrite agreements between HHS’ National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and local health organizations that will work with hospitals, clinicians, and patients to effectively use and benefit from EHR.
For instance, Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS), a nonprofit organization in Spokane, Washington, was awarded a $15.7 million Beacon Community grant specifically to improve quality and efficiency of care for diabetics in a 16-county, mostly rural region of eastern Washington and western Idaho. To achieve this, INHS will use health IT to:
coordinate services by area caregivers – doctors, nurses, clinicians, lab technicians
develop outreach programs to help diabetic patients and their caregivers navigate the healthcare system
improve caregivers’ administrative and management efforts
Fifteen Beacon grants were awarded in May 2010, totaling $220 million. The final two grant recipients: Greater Cincinnati HealthBridge, Inc., in Ohio, and Southeastern Michigan Helath Assn. in Detroit. Beacon grants now total $250 million.
All Regional Extension Center Grants
All Beacon Community Grants
Details on all HHS/ONC Health IT programs
Back to Featured Stories