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Feds Award $27.8M For Rural E-Health

Department of Health and Human Services funding will go to implement electronic health records and other health IT initiatives.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $27.8 in recovery funds to rural networks and large multisite health centers to implement electronic health records and other health information technology initiatives.

The awards, announced Tuesday, are part of the $2 billion allotted to HHS's Health Resources and Services Administration under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to expand health care services to low-income and uninsured people, the department said in a statement.

The department awarded 18 grants totaling more than $22.6 million for e-health record implementation. Four grants totaling more than $2.6 million will help implement a variety of healthcare IT innovations, including creating health information exchanges among different providers and incorporating healthcare IT at dental delivery sites. Another five grants totaling more than $2.5 million will help health centers devise plans to use existing e-health record systems to improve patient health outcomes, the department said.

The department also released a report Thursday in which it said demonstrates how health IT improves care in rural communities. The report looks at the Columbia Basin Health Association in Othello, Wash., which uses health IT to improve health care quality, patient safety, and promote care coordination, and continuity, according to a statement.

The association provides 25,000 patients with access to medical, dental, prescription, and other services. It was one of the first health centers in the nation to fully transition from paper-based charts to e-health records, the department said.

"In response to the growing prevalence of diabetes in rural communities, CBHA used their e-health record system to better track 1,302 diabetic patients. CBHA monitored whether patients received recommended exams and then provided feedback to health care providers on their performance," the department said.

The statement adds, "In January 2008, only 31 percent of patients at CBHA had received a foot exam and only 37 percent had received an eye exam during the previous year. By June 2008, 86 percent of patients had received a foot exam and 63 percent had received an eye exam over the previous year. Since CBHA implemented its electronic health record system, the community health center has consistently ranked above the 95th percentile nationally in total medical and dental team productivity."

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