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HHS Allocates $220M for Health IT to 15 Communities

iStock_000006914923XSmallThe Health and Human Services is allocating $220 million to 15 communities to pilot test the adoption of emerging health IT.

The awards are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds totaling a $2 billion effort to promote the implementation of electronic health records by 2014.

Vice President Joe Biden said the selected communities are going to lead the way in bringing smarter, lower-cost health care 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 – and for the residents of these communities, that future is about to become a reality,” Biden said.

Each so-called Beacon Community will use health IT resources in various ways to bring providers, federal programs and patients together to fins news ways of improving quality and efficiency to benefit patients and taxpayers. For example, Louisiana Public Health Institute in Louisiana will use the funds to reduce racial health disparities and improve control of diabetes and smoking cessation rates by linking technically isolated health systems, providers, and hospitals, while Delta Health Alliance Inc. in Mississippi will focus on improvements for diabetic patients by electronically linking isolated systems and practices for care management, medication therapy management and patient education.

The HHS predicts the Beacon projects to initially create dozens of new jobs in each community paying an average of $70,000 per year for a total of 1,100 jobs up-front, while speeding up the development of a nationwide health IT infrastructure that will eventually employ tens of thousands of Americans.

Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health IT, said the communities will be expected to build on an existing infrastructure of interoperable health IT and standards-based information exchange to show the promise for health IT.

“The Beacon Communities will offer evidence that widespread adoption of health IT and exchange of health information is both feasible and improves care delivery and health outcomes,” Blumenthal said. “The lessons learned through the program will be a roadmap for other communities to achieve meaningful use on a community-wide basis.”

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