Federal agencies have awarded three “buckets of money” to help you and Indiana advance technologically
Health information technology (HIT) holds promise to better coordinate patient care, reduce costs, improve quality – and daily life for physician practices. That’s the idea behind development of a variety of federal HIT grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and Indiana is seeing a flow of those dollars. To date three rounds of grant funding have sent funds to our state.
What does that mean to you? If you already have an electronic health record (EHR), you may get assistance with an upgrade or gain access to a pool of potential employees who are skilled in HIT – a benefit for any office. You may also see improved connectivity, allowing you to exchange data with other medical offices, laboratories, pharmacies, clinics and hospitals – providing quicker, easier access to test results and referred patient information.
If you do not have an EHR, you may qualify for thousands of dollars in assistance to get one. You’ll be able to tap into experts for consultation, and selection and implementation information. Then when you do conclude your EMR implementation, you’ll find lab reports, hospital notes and other important details about your patients are immediately available to you.
|First bucket – Regional Extension Centers
In February, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded nearly $1 billion to advance the use of HIT nationwide. In Indiana, Purdue University was granted $12 million and HealthBridge (serving 19 southern Indiana counties) was granted $9.7 million to create Regional Extension Centers (RECs).
RECs will help you and other health care providers qualify for federal incentive dollars for the purchase or update of an EHR. The RECs will take a hands-on approach to assist with selection, implementation, project management and achievement of meaningful use of EHRs. The attention of the RECs will be on small primary care practices (less than 10 physicians), particularly those in rural areas. Each of 32 RECs across the country is tasked with supporting 1,000 providers.
According to the directive in the Federal Register, the RECs must: “…provide technical assistance and disseminate best practices and other information…” Read the full directive here.
|Second bucket – For skilled workers
Two additional entities in the state also received large grants in February. Ivy Tech Community College and the Indianapolis Private Industry Council were awarded about $5 million each. Their job? These entities will help develop the skilled labor force that will be needed when the mass of health professionals in our state begin using HIT.
The $5 million for each entity will advance training and employment services to ensure that medical offices and others have access to technical and other support. Unemployed and displaced workers can receive training for IT, nursing and allied health careers.
|Third bucket – For health information exchange
In mid-March, another grant of $10.3 million was announced for our state. It will support the State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program, led by BioCrossroads, to improve the quality and reach of Indiana’s existing health information delivery systems.
A new non-profit entity has been created to spearhead the effort; it’s called Indiana Health Information Technology, Inc. (IHIT).
IHIT will serve as a governance and contracting structure for the purpose of extending HIT networks to all corners of the state. That means IHIT will work with the following health information exchanges (HIOs) already operating here:
- Indiana Health Information Exchange
- Michiana Health Information Network
These exchanges securely transfer clinical test results, reports and other medical information between physicians groups, clinics and hospital networks. The grant will allow IHIT to build upon our already firm foundation by enhancing the availability and adoption of these critical existing services to other, more rural areas of the state.
Among other things, IHIT and the five current HIOs will:
- Expand the infrastructure statewide to add more connectivity and interoperability, especially in underserved areas
- Establish standard formats for delivery of clinical messages so communication between two entities in the statewide system can be sent and received seamlessly
- Expand electronic quality reporting, public health reporting and other clinical summaries relevant to meaningful use guidelines
- Develop a system to identify patient records and match them to specific individual’s health information across all providers
- Adopt nomenclature that is normalized and based on national standards
- Build a clinical repository with data from Medicaid patient records for better information on that patient population
“Indiana is really the nation’s leader in using HIOs for the rapid deployment of electronic health information through our health care system,” said David Johnson, BioCrossroads president and CEO. “Our efforts here will serve as a model for many other areas of the country as the federal government mandates progress toward better health outcomes through the meaningful use of patient information.”