A Medical Device Daily

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), reported that it would award $31.4 million in grants to help health centers adopt electronic health records (EHRs) and other health information technology. HRSA’s Office of Health Information Technology, created in 2005, is charged with developing an agency-wide healthcare IT strategy that benefits safety-net providers and responds to the needs of the uninsured, underserved and special-needs populations, a HRSA statement said. The agency said the grants are vital for the achievement of President’s George W. Bush’s goal of adoption of EHRs for most Americans by 2014.

The HRSA grants will include:

Twenty-five grants totaling more than $27 million to support implementation of EHRs at health centers and in networks that link multiple health center grantees.

Eight grants worth almost $1 million to help health centers plan activities that will prepare them to adopt EHRs or other healthcare IT innovations.

Thirteen grants worth more than $3 million to help health center networks implement healthcare IT other than electronic health records, such as physician order entry, personal health records, community health records, health information exchanges and smart cards.

HRSA grant recipients include health centers in California, Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Utah.

HHS also reported a grant of up to $13 million will be awarded for the design, creation and operation of a successor entity to the American Health Information Community (AHIC).

AHIC, created and chaired by HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, advises the department on how to advance healthcare information technology, including creation of a national health information network. Leavitt said he believes a new public-private entity will be more representative of industry stakeholders. Some others, including U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (D-California) and the AARP (Washington) interest group, believe AHIC remaining under the federal government umbrella would be more accountable.

Under a notice of funding availability issued by HHS, the department anticipates one award with an initial payment of $2 million to support the design and creation of a successor entity during a four-month period. A subsequent $3 million payment will fund initial ongoing operations of the entity. Up to $8 million in additional funding will continue to support operations assuming availability of funds.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on Sept. 5 will host a technical assistance meeting to answer questions related to the notice.

In other grants news: Cardinal Health (Dublin, Ohio) reported that it is granting up to $1 million to fund new programs at hospitals, health systems and community health clinics across the country.

Grants of up to $50,000 will provide funding for programs that establish or implement creative and replicable methods to address challenges in providing quality patient care and to help drive improvements.

According to reports and research published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), healthcare in the U.S. is not as safe as it should be — and can be. At least 44,000 people — and perhaps as many as 98,000 people — die in hospitals each year as a result of preventable medical errors.

“The healthcare community is keenly aware of the need to improve quality and patient safety,” said R. Kerry Clark, Cardinal’s CEO. “We see these grants as an opportunity to provide healthcare organizations with additional resources to drive measurable improvements. We hope that our efforts will help hospitals make meaningful progress in this important endeavor.”

In addition to the primary award criteria related to patient safety, programs can also be intended for operational or performance improvement, provided there is a strong impact on patient safety measures.

To be eligible for funding, facilities must be designated as 501(c)(3) by the IRS and submit a letter of intent to submit a proposal by Oct. 12. Applicants are encouraged to be financially invested in the program through either operating support or in-kind contributions of time and materials. Grants will be announced and awarded in March 2008.

Cardinal develops technologies, including Alaris IV pumps, Pyxis automated dispensing systems, MedMined electronic infection surveillance, Viasys respiratory care products and the CareFusion patient identification system. The company also manufactures medical and surgical products and is one of the largest distributors of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies worldwide.

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