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US announces $235M for community health IT

WASHINGTON – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and David Blumenthal, MD, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, have announced US$235 million in grants supporting non-profit organizations and local governments that can exemplify the positive impact of healthcare IT on population health.

HHS will soon be offering $220 million in grants to qualified local governments and non-profits that are building healthcare exchange and fostering meaningful use of IT in their communities, Blumenthal said. An additional $10 million will go toward covering the administrative costs of the grant program, and $5 million will fund technical assistance.

The grants will support the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program and be funded from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Combined with other recently announced federal healthcare IT programs, they total 75 percent of the $2 billion allotted under ARRA for healthcare IT, according to Blumenthal.

Sebelius said the program’s goal is to help Americans live healthier lives. By supporting communities on the forefront of using healthcare IT, the federal government hopes to provide models – or beacons – for the rest of the country. Blumenthal said HHS his looking for “all types of communities,” including rural, urban, towns, counties, geographical regions, wealthy and underserved populations, to apply for grants.

The program will focus on improving health in the grant communities, with emphasis on using healthcare IT to improve measurable healthcare statistics such as a decrease in smoking rates, reduced hospital readmission rates, a lower number of people with obesity and high blood pressure, improved care for people with diabetes, and decreased healthcare disparities among populations, according to Blumenthal.

Grantees will be encouraged to use existing federal resources and programs that already promote health information exchange at the community level. Close coordination with the Regional Extension Center Program, State Health Information Exchange Program and the national Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC) will ensure that lessons learned are shared, Blumenthal said.

Posted Dec.10, 2009