HHS to fund 16 states with an additional $162 million under ARRA

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Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced yesterday than an additional $162 million funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 will be awarded to 16 states and qualified state-designated entities to help them develop the policies and framework that allow health information to be securely exchanged across providers and hospitals.

“What these awards will do is strengthen our healthcare system and speed our economic recovery. They’ll help to unleash the power of health IT to cut costs, eliminate paperwork and, best of all, help doctors deliver high quality coordinated care,” said Sebelius during a conference call announcing the awards.

Only about 20 percent of the doctors and 10 percent of hospital today have basic EHRs even though many doctors can see the benefits, said Sebelius, who added that there are still obstacles to EHR implementation. “One of the problems is that EHR systems are not always compatible with each other," she said. "That’s where these grants that we’re announcing today will help. They’ll facilitate non-propriety HIE that adheres to national standards, which means they’ll help states assure the security and privacy of health information as it’s exchanged across providers and hospitals within and across state lines."

“We know states have to take a leadership in this area because they are closer to the ground than we at the federal level are, said  David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator for health IT. "They have a major stake in this as providers of Medicaid funds and as superintendents of state public health data and activities.”

“[This is] an essential preparation for enabling providers who wish to become meaningful users to become meaningful users and thereby to give patients the benefit of rapid, seamless, private and secure health information exchange among their physicians and other care takers,” Blumenthal concluded.