HHS Awards $83.9 Million in Recovery Act Funds to Expand Use of Health IT

HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $83.9 million in grants to help networks of health centers adopt electronic health records (EHR) and other health information technology (HIT) systems. The funds are part of the $2 billion allotted to HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to expand health care services to low-income and uninsured individuals through its health center program.

“We need health information technology to bring our health care system into the 21st century,” Sebelius, said in a news release. “This essential technology improves the quality of care we all receive and helps make care more efficient.”

Forty-five grants will support new and enhanced EHR implementation projects as well as HIT innovation projects. Funds will allow grantees to use EHR technology to improve health care quality, efficiency and patient safety. Eligible professionals practicing within health centers who are able to demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology may be eligible for incentive payments provided under Medicaid and Medicare.

“These funds will help safety net providers acquire state-of-the-art health information technology systems as they work to provide quality health care to millions of people in need,” Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, HRSA administrator, said.

Health Center Controlled Networks (HCCNs) improve the operational effectiveness and clinical quality in health centers by providing management, financial, technology and clinical support services. The networks, comprised of at least three collaborating organizations, are community-based groups that support HRSA-funded health centers that provide primary health care to nearly 19 million patients – a number expected to double over the next 5 years as health reform is implemented.

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