06:13 PM

Health And Human Services Awards $139 Million For Patient IT

The department offers money to jump-start the creation of electronic patients' records.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday awarded $139 million in grants and contracts to promote the use of IT in health care to improve patient safety and quality of care. The awards come from HHS's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and aim to help advance President Bush's goal for most Americans to have electronic health records within 10 years.

Among the awards are more than 100 grants to help development and use of health IT in rural communities and small hospitals in 38 states. First-year funding for those grants is $41 million and will total $96 million over three years.

Also awarded were five-year contracts to five states--Colorado, Indiana, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Utah--to help the development of secure statewide or regional networks that support health-care providers' accessibility to patients' electronic records. Participants in those projects include private and public insurance payers, hospitals, ambulatory-care facilities, nursing homes, and purchasers or health care plans. First-year funding is $1 million for each state with a total of $25 million over the terms of the various contracts.

Also, AHRQ awarded a two-year renewable contract worth up to $18.5 million to a national research organization at the University of Chicago to create a National Health Information Technology Resource Center. The center will provide technical assistance and serve as a repository for best practices to aid grantees and other federal partners in their adoption of health IT to improve patient safety and care.

"I view these awards as a building block to advance the adoption of electronic health records," said Dr. David Brailer, the national coordinator for health information technology, in a statement. "These projects will encourage real-world laboratories for innovation and provide models for other organizations as we move forward in developing an electronic health record." Brailer was named in May to the new position of national health IT czar created by Bush.

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