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New grants and contracts will help improve patient safety and quality of care

In October 2004, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality awarded $139 million in grants and contracts to promote the use of health information technology (HIT). This multi-year program builds on President Bush's initiative to use HIT to improve the Nation's health care system.

These awards will provide insight into how best to use health information technologies to improve patient safety by reducing medication errors; increasing the use of shared health information between providers, laboratories, pharmacies and patients; helping to ensure safer patient transitions between health care settings, including hospitals, doctors' offices, and nursing homes; and reducing duplicative and unnecessary testing.

In addition to improving care for patients and giving health care providers additional support, health information technology has the potential to produce savings of up to 10 percent of the country's total annual spending on health care.

The $139 million will be used in the following ways:

  • Promoting access to HIT. Over 100 grants to communities, hospitals, providers, and health care systems to help in all phases of the development and use of health information technology. The grants are spread across 38 States, with a special focus on small and rural hospitals and communities. First year funding is $41 million, and total funding will be nearly $96 million over 3 years.
  • Developing State-wide and regional networks. These are 5-year contracts to each of five States or their designees to help them develop State-wide networks that are secure, ensure privacy of health information, and make an individuals' health information more available to health care providers. The five States are Colorado, Indiana, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Utah. Participants include major purchasers of health care, public and private payers, hospitals, ambulatory care facilities, home health care providers, and long-term care providers. First-year funding is $1 million for each State; funding will total $25 million over the course of the contracts.
  • Encouraging adoption of HIT by sharing knowledge. The creation of the National Health Information Technology Resource Center to aid grantees and other Federal partners by providing technical assistance and a focus for collaboration, serving as a repository for best practices, and disseminating needed tools to help providers explore the adoption and use of health information technology to improve patient safety and quality of care. The 2-year contract, which is renewable for up to 3 years, was awarded to NORC, a national organization for research at the University of Chicago. First year funding is $4 million, with an estimated value of $18.5 million over the course of the contract.

These awards address directly the four goals of HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson's recently announced Framework for Strategic Action, "The Decade of Health Information Technology: Delivering Consumer-centric and Information-rich Health Care," which are: informing clinical practice, fostering the use of electronic health records, electronically connecting clinicians to other clinicians so they can exchange health information using information tools to personalize care delivery, and advancing surveillance and reporting for population health improvement. The Framework for Strategic Action was released in July, 2004 by Secretary Thompson at a Secretarial Summit on Health Information Technology that brought together many of the Nation's technology and health leaders.

President Bush in April called for electronic health records for most Americans within 10 years. An executive order provided for the establishment of the office of the "National Coordinator for Health Information Technology" and in May, Secretary Thompson appointed David J. Brailer, M.D., Ph.D., to the new position.

Select for more specific information on AHRQ Health Information Technology Programs.

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