ONC Grant Programs and Awards
Most of the ONC grant and cooperative agreements programs are based on authorities provided by the Health Information Technology and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act [PDF - 123 KB]. The purpose of the HITECH Act, which was enacted as Title IV of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) of 2009, is to improve health care delivery and patient care through investment in health information technology (HIT). The programs created by the HITECH Act provide technical assistance, support and incentives to health care providers, facilitate coordination among States, and provide workforce training to promote the meaningful use of certified electronic health records.
The Recovery Act included an appropriation of more than $19 billion in support of HITECH Act grant programs. Many of the Recovery Act awards still are active. As part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), ONC also receives an annual appropriation. If new funding becomes available for the HITECH Act programs or other grant or cooperative agreement programs or activities, ONC will announce the availability of funding in the HHS Grants Forecast and at Grants.gov.
ONC provides financial assistance to non-Federal entities through two types of legal instruments: grants and cooperative agreements. As defined by the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act, the difference between the two is that a cooperative agreement provides for substantial involvement between ONC and the recipient in carrying out the programmatic activities contemplated by the award. For the purposes of ONC cooperative agreements, substantial involvement entails close collaboration to ensure that project aims are being met, provide ongoing programmatic technical assistance and troubleshooting, and facilitate coordination among programs.
Regional Extension Centers Program
The purpose of the Regional Extension Centers (REC) program is to provide support to organizations that serve local communities throughout the country for the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology. REC services include outreach and education, electronic health record (EHR) support (such as working with vendors, or helping providers choose a certified EHR system), and technical assistance in implementing health IT and using it in a meaningful way to improve care.
The purpose of the State Heath Information Exchange (State HIE) is to provide support for the development of nationwide sustainable Health Information Exchanges that are compliant with meaningful use requirements under Medicare and Medicaid. The State HIE program promotes innovative approaches to the secure exchange of health information within and across states. It also works to ensure that health care providers and hospitals meet national standards and meaningful use requirements.
The objective of the Beacon Communities program is to demonstrate the benefits investments in health information technology have on patient-centered care while reducing costs and improving levels of health and patient care. Each of the selected communities—with its unique population and regional context—is actively pursuing the following areas of focus: building and strengthening the health IT infrastructure and exchange capabilities within their communities; translating investments in health IT to measureable improvements in cost, quality and population health; and developing innovative approaches to performance measurement, technology and care delivery to accelerate evidence generation for new approaches.
The Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects Program (SHARP) supports collaborative, inter-disciplinary research addressing issues impeding widespread adoption of health IT. The knowledge generated and innovations created from this program will accelerate progress toward the meaningful use of health IT and a high-performing, adaptive, nationwide health care system. SHARP cooperative agreement recipients are conducting research along the following areas: security and health IT, patient-centered cognitive support, health care application and network design, and secondary use of electronic health record (EHR) information.
The objectives of the Workforce Development Programs are to train a new workforce of skilled health IT professionals to help providers implement electronic health records (EHRs) and achieve meaningful use, including increasing the availability of individuals qualified to serve in specific health IT professional roles. These programs include health IT curriculum development centers, community college consortia, assistance for university-based training programs, and the development of competency examination programs.