Writing on the Office of the National Coordinator’s (ONC) Health IT Buzz Blog, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said that today’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) award of over $160 million in federal funds for “meaningful use” of health IT was “a key step” toward establishing a national Health Information Exchange.
He writes, “An unprecedented level of coordination and collaboration is needed to achieve our vision of a secure, interoperable, nationwide health information infrastructure where health data can follow patients to their point of care. We must find innovative ways to break down the barriers that prevent the seamless exchange of information, and States have to be key players.”
This round of health IT awards saw 16 states and State Designated Entities (SDE) receive part of a $160 million grant to “rapidly build capacity for exchanging health information among and between health care professionals and hospitals.” These exchanges will allow any two care providers within a state to send and receive relevant clinical data for patient treatment.
The end goal for Dr. Blumenthal is expanding these exchanges to the national level. He says this is essential for “health data to follow patients to the point of care.” For example, if you hurt yourself while vacationing in Florida and were unresponsive, a national health exchange would enable the local doctor to access all relevant information from your primary care provider in Virginia.
These awards build on February’s billion-dollar funding announcement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis which established Regional Extension Centers. These are local centers to enable smaller, primary-care physician practices to adopt health IT, that will serve “every nook and cranny of the country,” according to Joshua Seidman of the ONC. He added that “additional REC cooperative agreements will be announced in the near future“ and REC grants will be “focused on solo and small group practices, community and rural health centers, public and critical-access hospitals, and other settings that predominately serve uninsured, underinsured, or medically underserved patients.“