ONC Grant Funding Opportunities Help Advance Interoperable Health IT, Leverage Community Best Practices and Train the New Health IT Workforce

Thomas A. Mason | July 28, 2015

Today, ONC announced more than $38 million in grant awards to 20 organizations from 19 states across the country to further efforts toward achieving better care, smarter spending and healthier people. This will include closing health IT gaps and working together to further the health of individuals and communities.

The grant programs are community and state-based initiatives that help advance health information sharing, enable community members to work together to improve population health, improve the interoperability of health IT systems and continue efforts to train and nurture the health IT workforce. All of this work is built upon accomplishments of earlier grants funded through the Health Information Technology and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Like interoperability, the success of these programs is a priority but really only a means to an end. These programs and the communities participating in them will help us move toward a world in which health IT and interoperability enable better care and better health.

The successes from the initial HITECH programs saw major accomplishments such as bringing query-based exchange to 37 states, creating a series of learning guides for doctors & health care organizations, and reaching the original Community College workforce goal with 19,773 graduates. As we advance better health information sharing for better health and care, the work of these new programs will continue to become more expansive, timely, and relevant. Under the program requirements, each effort is responsible for the continued development and sharing of interoperable health IT tools and services allowing all states, providers, and workers to have access to the resources needed to adapt to the changing health care landscape.

Advancing Interoperability & Health Information Exchange

The safe and secure exchange of electronic health information to improve health and transform care remains a top priority for ONC. As such, we are entering into cooperative agreements with 12 states or state-designated entities representing all ten HHS regions to assist in moving this vision forward.

Awardees will work with ONC to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Expand the adoption of health information exchange technology, tools and services.
  • Facilitate and enable send, receive, find, and use capabilities of health information across organizational, vendor, and geographic boundaries, and
  • Increase the integration of health information in interoperable health IT to support care processes and decision making.

Grantees will work with a variety of health care stakeholders focusing on target populations that include individuals and a wide range of clinical and non-clinical caregivers across the entire care continuum. This includes patients themselves and those providers who are not eligible for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs payments such as long-term care and behavioral health providers (read the Frequently Asked Questions about this grant opportunity).

Community Health Peer Learning Program

The Community Health Peer Learning Program (CHP) builds upon the success of the 17 Beacon Communities with a particular focus on supporting population health improvements at the community level. These funds will help clinicians, administrators, organizations, and communities continue to learn, grow, and improve the health of residents while on the path to interoperable health IT. The Community Health Peer Learning Program will leverage and cultivate cross-community partnerships around population health challenges through peer learning, subject matter expert guidance, and stakeholder engagement.

This summer, ONC is pleased to partner with AcademyHealth to recruit communities across the country through a ‘call for application’ to participate in the collaborative peer learning program. These communities will work to address their population health challenge through improved data aggregation, data portability, and data analysis.

In addition to impactful, measurable outcomes addressing community-level population health challenges, the CHP program will work to translate individual community progress into data solutions, best practices, and tools which can be shared with non-participating communities nationwide to accelerate and achieve similar health data sharing successes.

Workforce Training Program

We owe it to the men and women who care for patients to equip them with health IT knowledge and literacy that will help them keep pace with the rapidly changing health and technology landscape. In continued recognition of the need to invest in the skills and knowledge base of our health care workforce members nationwide, ONC’s Workforce Training Program is taking a two-pronged approach:

  • Update training materials from the original Workforce Curriculum Development Program.
  • Train 6,000 incumbent health care workers to use new information technologies.

It should be noted that these trainings are targeted towards a variety of settings: team-based care environments, long-term care facilities, patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations, hospitals and clinics. While this multi-setting approach comes with its own complexities, the workforce efforts will focus on four key topic areas:

  1. Population Health
  2. Care Coordination
  3. New Care Delivery and Payments Models
  4. Value Based & Patient-Centered Care

These areas constitute much of the nexus between health IT and patient care delivery, emphasizing the importance of teams (which include the patient) in meeting consumers’ needs and care goals through the use of technology.

The advancing interoperability & exchange, community peer learning, and workforce development programs represent ONC’s continued commitment to the updated Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap and the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, both of which are slated to be released in the upcoming months. We look forward to new and continuing partnerships with these grantees and all stakeholders as we forge ahead laying the foundation for an interoperable learning health system.

Learn more about all of the new funding opportunities at www.healthit.gov.