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HHS Provides Another $162 Million for State Health IT Programs

Les Masterson and Janice Simmons, March 15, 2010

In its latest round of health IT funding, HHS announced $162 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding on Monday to help states "facilitate health information exchange and advance health information technology."

The funding is part of a $2 billion initiative to "achieve widespread meaningful use of health IT and provide use of an electronic health record by every citizen by the year 2014," according to HHS.

"These critical investments will help unleash the power of health information technology to cut costs, eliminate paperwork, and help doctors deliver high-quality, coordinated care to patients," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "States are important partners in improving and expanding our electronic health records system. By improving the secure exchange of electronic health records between providers and hospitals within and across states, these awards mark a significant step in bringing our health system into the 21st century."

"What these awards will do is strengthen our healthcare system and speed our economic recovery," said Sebelius at a news conference Monday. "They have to unleash the power of health information technology to reduce costs, eliminate paperwork, and best of all help doctors deliver a higher level of quality, coordinated care."

The latest awards will go to 16 states and qualified state designated entities, which federal leaders say will enable care coordination and improve quality and efficiency of care. The awards include nearly $29 million for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, nearly $21 million for the Florida Agency of Health Care Administration, and more than $11 million for the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority.

"Today's announcement of awards to 16 states and SDEs marks a significant milestone with all states now empowered to start their journey toward identifying innovative ways to break down theses barriers that prevent the seamless exchange of information, so that we can give patients the access to care they deserve and expect," said Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology. "States play a critical leadership role in advancing the development of the exchange capacity of healthcare providers and hospitals within their states and across the nation."

The states are "proceeding rapidly" and "at their own pace," he said at the news conference.

"We're trying to get physicians on the escalator toward meaningful use and we want to set the first step at the right level. We're anxious to hear comments," said Blumenthal.

Sebelius said the funding with help physicians and hospitals gain electronic health records. She cited statistics that only 20% of doctors and 10% of hospitals have "basic electronic records."

"Even though many doctors around the country can see the potential benefits, there also are still lots of obstacles. One of the problems in that the electronic health record systems are not always compatible with each other. That's where these grants that we are announcing today will help. They'll facilitate nonproprietary health information exchange that adheres to national standards, which means they'll help ensure the security and privacy of health information as it's exchanged within and across doctors and hospitals," she said.

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