HHS rolls out EHR adoption program for underserved areas

The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Minority Health--working with Quest Diagnostics and its subsidiary MedPlus--rolled out a new initiative this week to help improve electronic health record (EHR) adoption among small healthcare practices serving medically underserved and minority populations.

Quest and MedPlus--the first vendors to participate in the HHS initiative--are donating about 75 EHR licenses for Quest's cloud-based Care360 EHR software, which includes one-year subscription fees, and will help pull together the necessary information technology elements for the participating practices in the Houston area, report InformationWeek. They will collaborate with the regional extension center (REC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, on staff education and training.

Quest Diagnostics, headquartered in Madison, N.J., and MedPlus will donate 85 percent of the cost of health provider EHR licenses, program integration, monthly subscription fees, and education and training. (Since 2006, an exception to the federal Stark Law and Anti-Kickback Statute has permitted donation of certain EHR arrangements--but requires recipients to pay 15 percent of donor costs.)

Last fall, then-National Health IT coordinator David Blumenthal, MD--joined by Garth Graham, MD, director of the HHS Office of Minority Health--said EHR adoption rates for providers with large minority and Medicaid populations are lower than those serving mostly privately insured white populations. They were looking to the vendor community to close this "digital divide."

Other partners include the National Health Information Technology Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT), a Washington, D.C.-based public, private and community partnership; the Healthcare & Information Management Systems Society Latino Initiative Workgroup; and Medic Success, a New Jersey company that promotes health-related solutions for underserved communities.

The groups will help with doctor recruitment, while the Office of Minority Health will lead program evaluation.

For more information:
- see the HHS Office of Minority Health announcement
- view the InformationWeek article