ONC adds $80M for meaningful use 'support players'

The use of regional extension centers (RECs), state health information exchanges (HIEs), and community college workforce programs is getting an $80 million push from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to support providers meeting meaningful use objectives.

There's no doubt that the "star player" this year is the EHR incentive programs, which will let providers begin qualifying for payments through Medicare and Medicaid, said national health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal in a statement. But, "equally important are the supporting players" created under the HITECH Act to "help providers adopt and achieve meaningful use of EHRs."

RECs are receiving additional funding of $32 million. This reflects ONC's plan to improve outreach to providers by encouraging them to register for the incentive programs and to seek support as they adopt health IT.

"We recognize that the early transition to HIT can be challenging, and we want to make sure that our RECs are fully operational to help make this transition as smooth as possible," Blumenthal said.

HIEs will receive an additional $16 million "to encourage breakthrough innovations" by providing 10 awards between $1 million and $2 million to state HIE grantees addressing solutions in five areas: achieving specific health goals, improving care transitions, using consumer‑mediated information exchange, enhancing querying for patient care, and promoting population-level analytics.

For community colleges, $32 million in second year funding is being provided to continue academic HIT programs' training of specialists needed to make rapid adoption and meaningful use possible.

For more details:
- here's Blumenthal's announcement
- read the Government Health IT article