Federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now targeted to Indiana. Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded nearly $1 billion in grants nationally to facilitate the adoption of health information technology and meaningful use of electronic health record systems. More funds – and further announcements -- will come.
In this round, Purdue University was awarded $12 million and HealthBridge, which covers Ohio, Kentucky and 19 southern Indiana counties, was awarded $9.7 million. Both groups are among 32 initial organizations tasked with developing regional extension centers (RECs).
The mission of RECs will be to help health professionals implement and use health information technology. RECs are expected to provide outreach and support services to 100,000 or more primary care providers and hospitals over a two-year period.
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Regional extension centers will provide physician practices with on-site technical assistance to:
The education grants will assure there are enough skilled technology workers to provide the assistance needed for medical practices – here and nationwide.
- Select a certified electronic health record (EHR) system
- Implement a system so it can be used effectively
- Enhance workflow in a way that improves the quality and value of care provided
- Comply with any legal or regulatory requirements in place to protect patient privacy and security
Mary Ann Sloan, director of Purdue’s Healthcare Technical Assistance Program, explained the grant funds will help them reach practices that don’t have access to the resources of larger health care systems and haven’t yet adopted electronic technology. “With this funding, we will help them select products and provide training on how to use the technology to its fullest potential to improve patient care.”
Cincinnati-based HealthBridge already has a partnership with Bloomington’s HealthLINC and the Indiana Health Information Exchange in Indianapolis. The three exchanges connect more than 15,000 physicians, 50 hospitals and 12 million patient records. As a result, physicians adopting EHR systems in the southern Indiana service area will automatically be connected to the health exchange.
“Our center will be unique in that we will be able to feed physician EHRs with external information. They won’t have to scan results into the EHR,” explained Trudi Matthews, director of Policy and Public Relations for HealthBridge.
Matthews said that HealthBridge would provide the same kind of EHR adoption assistance as Purdue; both plan kick offs in April.
“This grant gives us the opportunity to work with small practices of 10 or fewer doctors to achieve meaningful use,” noted Todd Rowland, M.D., executive director of HealthLINC. “Basically, the federal government is funding regional extension centers to help physicians get started, but this is strictly on a voluntary basis.”
Other grant funds are intended to help people acquire the skills needed for information technology jobs. In Indiana, Ivy Tech Community College and the Indianapolis Private Industry Council will receive about $5 million each to help with training and employment services particularly for careers in health care settings, including nursing.