The US federal government announced the availability of grants worth nearly $1.2 billion to help hospitals and health care providers implement and use electronic health records (EHRs). The grants will be funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and will help health care providers qualify for new incentives that will be made available in 2010 to doctors and hospitals that meaningfully use EHRs.

The grants made available today include:

Grants totaling $598 million to establish approximately 70 Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers, which will provide hospitals and clinicians with hands-on technical assistance in the selection, acquisition, implementation, and meaningful use of certified electronic health record systems.

Grants totaling $564 million to States and Qualified State Designated Entities (SDEs) to support the development of mechanisms for information sharing within an emerging nationwide system of networks.

The Extension Center grants will be awarded on a rolling basis, with the first awards being issued in fiscal year 2010. Grants to States will be made in fiscal year 2010.

With electronic health records, we are making health care safer; we’re making it more efficient; we’re making you healthier; and we’re saving money along the way, said US Vice President Biden. These are four necessities we need for healthcare in the 21st-century.

Expanding the use of electronic health records is fundamental to reforming our health care system, said HHS Secretary Sebelius. Electronic health records can help reduce medical errors, make health care more efficient and improve the quality of medical care for all Americans. These grants will help ensure more doctors and hospitals have the tools they need to use this critical technology.