Underserved areas get $8.5M injection to boost health IT

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced that grants totaling $8.5 million will go to 85 community health centers to build their health IT infrastructures. Unlike most of the federal government's health IT spending, which is authorized by the HITECH Act, these funds will be distributed under the aegis of the Affordable Care Act.

However, the agenda of the HITECH Act did have an impact on the selection of the recipients. All of the community health centers that received funds are located in 15 of the 17 Beacon Communities to which the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has awarded grants. These Beacon Communities are expected to develop innovative ways of using information technology to improve healthcare and contain health costs.

The purpose of the Affordable Care Act grants, similarly, is to help community health centers adopt health IT "to support long-term improvements in quality of care, health outcomes and cost efficiencies."

"Beacon Communities are about empowering doctors, nurses, patients, and community leaders to come together and use technology to make tangible differences in the lives of everyday Americans," HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield said in a press release. "The health information technology they use is a vital tool in reaching and treating the vulnerable populations we serve, and the partnerships strengthened through these awards will strengthen health centers' efforts to deliver comprehensive, high-quality primary healthcare."

Community health centers recognized by HRSA are located in medically underserved areas and have a high proportion of Medicaid and uninsured patients. They include grant-supported federally qualified health centers, similar types of health centers that don't receive federal funding, and outpatient health programs and facilities operated by tribal organizations.

To learn more:
- read the press release
- see the CMIO article

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