The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced awards totaling $27.8 million to health center-controlled networks and large multi-site health centers to implement electronic health records (EHR) and other health information technology (HIT) innovations.
The funds are part of the $2 billion allotted to HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to expand health care services to low-income and uninsured individuals through its health center program.
“The increased use of health information technology is a key focus of our reform efforts because it will help to improve the safety and quality of health care generally while also cutting waste out of the system,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“These funds to expand and upgrade electronic health records systems will make a huge difference for health centers struggling to provide health care to the growing number of people in need,” said HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N.
“Broad use of health information technology has the potential to improve health care quality, prevent medical errors, and increase the efficiency of care provision,” added David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. “This program supports the Department’s overall efforts to assist physicians and hospitals in adopting and becoming meaningful users of health information technology.”
Eighteen grants totaling more than $22.6 million will support EHR implementation. Grants totaling more than $2.6 million will help four grantees implement a variety of HIT innovations, including the creation of health information exchanges among different providers and the incorporation of HIT at dental delivery sites. Another five grants totaling over $2.5 million will help health centers devise plans to use existing EHRs to improve patient health outcomes.
HRSA received $2 billion through the Recovery Act to expand health care services to low-income and uninsured individuals through its health center program. To date, more than $1.3 billion of these funds have been awarded to community-based organizations across the country. HRSA-supported health centers treated 17 million patients in 2008, 40 percent of whom have no health insurance.
In addition, HRSA received $500 million in Recovery Act workforce funds—$300 million to expand the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and another $200 million for other health care workforce programs. The NHSC funds will pay for student loan repayments for primary care medical, dental, and mental health clinicians who will practice for a minimum of two years in NHSC sites that treat underserved and uninsured people. Recently, awards totaling $33 million—part of the $200 million total—were announced to expand the training of health care professionals.