HHS and ONC invest $28 Million in Health Information Exchange Grants

Dr. Karen B. DeSalvo and Ahmed E. Haque | February 3, 2015

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced this morning an important Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) funding opportunity, which is part of a Department-wide effort to achieve the safe and secure exchange and use of electronic health information to improve health and transform care as outlined in the Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap Version 1.0.

This new funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will invest $28 million to increase the adoption and use of interoperable health IT tools and services to support the exchange of health information. Ten to twelve new awards will be made in the form of cooperative agreements to states, territories, or state designated entities (SDE) to continue work under the same intent as the original State Health Information Exchange (HIE) Program.

As part of the program, we seek to enable send, receive, find, and use health information in a manner that is appropriate, secure, timely, and reliable for both sender and receiver. A variety of use cases could fall into this definition including a long-term care provider’s ability to access lab results or radiological films after a patient was discharged from a hospital, as is the case in Colorado, or by linking the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Plan, as has been done in Maryland.

Through this funding opportunity, grantees will continue to leverage the investments and lessons learned from the earlier Health Information Exchange Programs to advance the standardized, secure, and interoperable movement of health information across organizations, vendors, and geographic boundaries. Grantees will address interoperability workflow challenges, technical issues, and improve the meaningful use of clinical data from external sources. Providers will be engaged from across the entire care continuum, including those who are not eligible for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs such as long term care facilities, to be able to send, receive, find, and use health information both within and outside their care delivery systems.

Grantees will have flexibility to work with other clinical and non-clinical care givers in various settings across the entire care continuum to support a more comprehensive, integrated patient record or care plan.  There is a critical need to provide technical assistance services that support health information exchange of a common clinical data set to improve care coordination.

The recipients of the new awards will work to expand coordination of care efforts so providers all over the country can begin to modify their standards of care using health IT and health information exchange, enabling them to focus on the patients as the center of care. These investments will support interoperable exchange of health information and increase connectivity of a variety of data sources to improve care coordination, which will help us achieve the goal of better care, smarter spending, and healthier people.