HHS announces 26 innovation awards
The U.S. Department Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced the first batch of organizations for Health Care Innovation awards. The awards, funded by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will support 26 projects across the U.S. that, according to the agency, will save money, deliver high-quality medical care and enhance the healthcare workforce. The preliminary awardees predict reducing spending by $254 million over the next three years.

“We can’t wait to support innovative projects that will save money and make our healthcare system stronger,” said Sebelius in a statement. “It’s yet another way we are supporting local communities now in their efforts to provide better care and lower cost.”

The new projects include collaborations of leading hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, technology innovators, community-based organizations, and patients’ advocacy groups, among others, located in urban and rural areas that will begin work this year to address healthcare issues in local communities. This initiative allows applicants to come up with their best ideas to test methods to quickly and efficiently improve the quality and affordability of healthcare.

According to the HHS, the projects include:
  • Atlanta's Emory University’s collaboration with area health systems to train health professionals and use telehealth technologies to link critical care units in rural Georgia to critical care doctors in Atlanta hospitals. This project aims to save money and improve the quality of care by reducing the need to transfer patients from rural hospitals to critical care units in Atlanta;
  • Camp Courage, a program in Minneapolis-St. Paul serving adults with disabilities and complex medical conditions. The grant will enable Camp Courage to save money and improve the quality of care by creating a patient-centered medical home focused on highest-cost Medicaid patients; and
  • An initiative at University Hospitals of Cleveland will seek to increase access and care coordination for children beyond the walls of the doctor’s office. This initiative aims to save money and improve the quality of care by extending the expertise of an elite children’s hospital to local pediatric practices treating children with complex chronic conditions and behavioral health problems with physician extension teams and telehealth.

Preliminary awardees were chosen for their innovative solutions to the healthcare challenges facing their communities and for their focus on creating a well-trained healthcare workforce equipped to meet the need for new jobs in today's health system, according to the agency. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the healthcare and social assistance sector will gain the most jobs between now and 2020.

The awards total $122.6 million. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at HHS administers the awards through cooperative agreements over three years.

Read more about the awards on the CMS website.