AHRQ issues 2008 health IT grant, contract review

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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released its Health IT Portfolio, revealing that the agency funded 124 grants and 26 contracts in 2008—the vast majority of which were multi-year in duration. In total, AHRQ will provide nearly one-quarter of a billion dollars in support over the lifetime of the projects, equaling $151 million for the grants and $70 million for the contracts.

In 2008, organizations in 39 states and Washington, D.C. had active health IT-sponsored projects. Since 2004, organizations in all 50 states have received Health IT Portfolio-sponsored projects, according to the agency.

The most common health IT strategic goal in the portfolio was enabling patient-centered care (PCC) or health information exchange (HIE), which was ascribed to 69 projects (13 contracts and 56 grants), which account for 46 percent of Health IT Portfolio-sponsored projects as of 2008. The AHRQ noted that this does not include the five-year multi-million dollar contract for the National Resource Center for Health IT, which supports activities across all of the strategic and business goals.

In total, AHRQ will provide the 69 projects with $102.7 million in funding over the lifetime of the projects.

The next most common strategic goal was improved decision making, which was ascribed to 47 projects (10 contracts and 37 grants) and contributes 32 percent of the Health IT Portfolio-sponsored projects as of 2008. In total, AHRQ will provide these 47 projects with $54.7 million in lifetime funding.

The 33 projects (two contracts and 31 grants) with medication management as their strategic goal comprise 22 percent of the Health IT Portfolio-sponsored projects as of 2008. In total, AHRQ will provide these 33 projects with $41.5 million.

Implementation and use was the dominant business goal for both grants and contracts at 69 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Among grants, knowledge creation was the second most frequent business goal at 35 percent, followed by synthesis and dissemination at 16 percent. Among contracts, synthesis and dissemination was the second most popular business goal at 28 percent, followed by knowledge creation at 20 percent.

In part, the agency noted that the difference in distribution of business goals is a result of the kind of information sought for certain types of mechanism (grant or contract).

While 15 percent of the individual Health IT Portfolio-sponsored projects have the business goal of dissemination and synthesis, this small number should not be interpreted as an undervaluing of dissemination or synthesis activities, AHRQ said. On the contrary, dissemination of results is a requirement specified in each Health IT Portfolio-sponsored project.

The Health IT Portfolio included a diversified pool of grantee principal investigators. There were 116 unique principal investigators among the 124 active grants.

Largely due to the intent of the Transforming Healthcare Quality Through Information Technology (THQIT) initiative to engage with rural hospitals and community health center one-time Request For Applications, 53 percent of the THQIT grants active in 2008 had been awarded to individuals who had not previously served as principal investigators on an NIH- or AHRQ-sponsored grant.

Among the 86 grants that continued on into 2009, AHRQ said that 17 percent address medication management, 30 percent address improved decision making, and 54 percent address PCC or HIE.