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HHS Announces Grants For Innovative Health Information Exchanges

Department of Health and Human Services commits $16 million for states that will use HIEs to improve patient outcomes, boost consumer knowledge, and accelerate public health efforts.

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has announced that it will award 10 grants totaling $16 million to state health information exchanges (HIEs) that develop technology and approaches to advance the electronic exchange of digitized medical records.

In a document published last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) ONC outlined the Health Information Exchange Challenge Program by saying the funds will go toward initiatives that will be developed in pilot sites and then shared, reused, and leveraged by other states and communities to increase nationwide interoperability.

According to ONC, the awards will range from $1 million to $2 million, and each application must address one of the five breakthrough challenge themes that will accelerate the nation's HIE capabilities.

The five themes are:

-- Achieving health goals through HIE. This entails strategies that combine technology to share information with changes in the delivery of care that have the potential to reduce preventable hospital admissions, readmissions, and duplicate testing.

-- Improving long-term and post-acute care transitions. This involves the need to engage long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) providers in information sharing efforts, especially to support sharing of care summaries across transitions in care and maintenance of an accurate and up-to-date medication list for patients.

-- Consumer-mediated information exchange. Consumer engagement and information access is a key component to achieving healthcare improvement goals, such as reducing smoking, decreasing medical errors, and adopting better methods for blood pressure control. Consumer access to their own health data in electronic formats is a basic requirement of these efforts.

-- Enabling enhanced query for patient care. Many patients desire a greater degree of choice to determine specifically which personal health information should be shared, with whom, and for what purpose. Additionally, providers and patients want more refined ways to find and assemble the precise information they need, such as the results of specific lab tests for a particular period of time, Applications must propose a breakthrough approach for achieving more granular patient control and increased query precision.

-- Fostering distributed population-level analytics. Information sharing is equally needed to support population-level analysis that will be the foundation for value-based payment models and population-level quality reporting. Further innovation and real-world execution is needed to advance approaches for population health analysis that are more distributed, broadly available, and easier to implement. Promising approaches include distributed analytic methods that allow for sophisticated statistical analyses, as well as reporting of simple counts to identify data trends that can be used for public health surveillance, quality reporting, and to monitor adverse events.

Applications for these grants are due by January 5, 2011, and the announcement of award winners is expected near the end of January.

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