$108M up for grabs in HHS health IT grants

The Health and Human Services Department distributed awards in three grant programs for health IT infrastructure and training.

The Health and Human Services Department is distributing $108 million to state and local agencies and rural health providers to push for broader adoption of electronic health records.

Under a new demonstration program developed through the Rural Health Initiative, HHS has awarded $12 million this year to rural health providers to install broadband networks and purchase equipment to increase the use of digital record systems, according to a Sept. 2 news release.

The funding is also intended to help the rural providers become eligible for incentive payments to doctors and hospitals under the economic stimulus law. The law allocated $19 million in such payments to motivate adoption of electronic health record systems.

“These funds will help safety net providers acquire state-of-the-art health information technology systems to ensure the delivery of quality care to some of the most remote areas of our country,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

The grants were awarded to 40 organizations, each of which received about $300,000.

In a separate program funded under the Affordable Care Act, HHS officials announced grants to states for prevention and public health that included $56 million for IT-related projects, according to a news release.

The awards included $42 million to support improvements to immunization registries and other immunization-related IT programs, including systems for billing of immunization services.

The award included $9 million for funding of public health positions related to disease monitoring, including jobs in informatics.

Another $5 million was dedicated to help states and territories expand toll-free telephone lines devoted to providing tobacco cessation counseling and services to the public.

In a third program, funded primarily by the Affordable Care Act, HHS awarded $40 million to state, local and tribal health agencies to enhance public health infrastructures and training centers, the department said in a news release.

The infrastructure improvement program operates under the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s five-year National Public Health Improvement Initiative. More than 100 people have been hired through the grant program and an additional 116 positions are expected to be filled through the new awards.

The funding is intended to pay for tracking performance, building a network of performance improvement managers, maximizing coordination across state lines and identifying and adopting best practices.

The grant award also supports the Health Resources and Services Administration’s public health training centers at accredited schools and other institutions. The award brings the total number of centers to 37, up from 27, one year ago.