ONC to Award $28 Million in Grants To Advance Interoperability of Health IT

Bloomberg BNA's Health IT Law & Industry Report brings you concise, comprehensive, and timely news and analysis of the regulatory, legal, and compliance issues surrounding our nation’s...

By Alex Ruoff

Feb. 3 — The Department of Health and Human Services will award $28 million in grants to improve the way patient information is shared electronically by hospitals and health-care providers, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said.

The two-year grant program will kick off the federal government's recently announced 10-year plan for improving the interoperability of health information technologies, Burwell said Feb. 3. The grant program requires funding recipients to “demonstrate innovative community-based solutions to advance standardized, secure and interoperable movement of health information across organizations, vendors and geographic boundaries,” she said.

The grant program and the interoperability plan are part of President Barack Obama's Precision Medicine initiative that seeks to improve health-care delivery through new research and development models.

“If we succeed in our effort around interoperability and delivery system reform it means that patients admitted to a hospital or referred to a specialist will be more likely to be given the right tests and medications because their doctors are doing a better job of coordinating with each other,” Burwell said.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will award 10 to 12 grants in the form of cooperative agreements with states and state-designated entities, ONC officials said in Feb. 3 blog post.

The ONC Jan. 30 released the first draft of its 10-year interoperability road map, a plan for improving the interoperability of health IT systems, titled Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap Version 1.0.

Grant Details

The grant program, titled Advance Interoperable Health Information Technology Services to Support Health Information Exchange, will apply lessons learned from the ONC's original State Health Information Exchange Program, according to a description of the grant program on the agency's website. The ONC, starting in 2009, awarded more than $500 million in grants to dozens of states and state-designated organizations to establish HIE organizations across the country.

The program will fund efforts that provide training, education and technical assistance to support both clinical and nonclinical health-care providers with incorporating electronic health data exchange into their current practices, the ONC said.

Grant application are due April 6.

Workforce Grants 

The ONC Feb. 3 also announced $6.4 million in workforce training grants.

The agency, according to a funding announcement, will award grants to organizations to update the health IT training tools created under its health IT workforce program and to establish a program to train incumbent health-care providers to use health IT.

The ONC's workforce training program—which ended in 2014—trained more than 21,000 students for health IT-related jobs, according to the agency's 2014 report to Congress.

Applications for the new workforce training grants are also due April 6.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kendra Casey Plank at kcasey@bna.com

Details about the interoperability grant program are at grant program

Details about the workforce grant program are at announcement.