Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have awarded $220 million in grants to 15 communities that will pave the way for the nation's ambitious health IT adoption efforts.
The funds were set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last year and awarded through the Beacon Community Program, which aims to strengthen the health IT infrastructure in select communities. The lessons learned from these pilot programs will then be incorporated into nationwide strategies for EHR adoption.
"These pioneering communities are going to lead the way in bringing smarter, lower-cost healthcare to all Americans through use of electronic health records. Because of their early efforts, doctors across the country will one day be able to coordinate patient care with the stroke of a key or pull up life-saving health information instantly in an emergency," Biden said.
The funds were included in the ARRA not only to spur EHR adoption, but to also create new jobs. The government estimates that the grants will initially create 1,100 jobs paying an average of $70,000 a year, and that the eventual nationwide health IT infrastructure will someday employ "tens of thousands of Americans."
Recipient communities ranged geographically from Hawaii to Buffalo, NY, and each received between roughly $12 and $16 million for local projects. More than 130 applicants were competing for the 15 awards, and to receive its grant each Beacon Community had to identify "specific and measurable improvement goals" related to the areas of quality, cost-efficiency, and population health.
The goals and measures vary depending on community need. Geisinger Clinic in Danville, PA, plans to enhance care for patients with pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure by creating a community-wide medical home, for instance. The Louisiana Public Health Institute in New Orleans plans to use the funds to reduce racial health disparities and improve smoking cessation rates by linking technically isolated health systems, providers, and hospitals. Using health IT to manage conditions like diabetes and heart disease was a common goal for many of the grant recipients.