HHS awards $42M to expand health centers' IT to support value-based care

Doctor computer medical records
The Department of Health and Human Services is providing $42 million to health centers to promote data sharing with the goal of increasing value-based care. (Getty/BrianAJackson)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded close to $42 million in funding to expand the use of health IT at thousands of federally funded health centers across the country.

The funding, which comes through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), will be provided to 49 health center controlled networks (HCCNs) that provide support to 1,183 health centers across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. 

The aim is to promote data sharing with the goal of increasing value-based care, according to HHS.

"Health centers play a crucial role in providing their communities with access to high quality, affordable healthcare,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “Investing in more advanced health IT will help put patients at the center and unleash the power of data, helping us get better value from the care delivered by health centers and delivering on President Trump’s vision for healthcare.”

RELATED: HRSA to assess grantees' progress in EHR adoption, support

"Improvements in information technology will enhance the patient and provider experience as health centers continue to deliver high-quality primary care in underserved communities across the nation,” HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, M.D., said. 

HCCNs are groups of health centers collaborating to improve operational and clinical practices by making technology easier for providers and patients to use, increasing the security of patient information and using data to improve patient care.

These networks provide specialized training and technical assistance to take advantage of economies of scale including group purchasing power, shared training and data analytics to support quality measurement and improvement, according to HRSA.

The networks work with state and regional primary care associations and HRSA’s health IT national cooperative agreement award recipients along with other national cooperative agreements. 

RELATED: HHS awards $36 million to improve health center IT

HCCNs have helped accelerate the adoption of electronic health records—99% of health centers now use them. 

Recent efforts have helped health centers adopt integrated care models and use health IT for patient engagement. Specifically, participating health centers are 27% more likely to have patient-centered medical home recognition and 20% more likely to use health IT for patient engagement than health centers that do not participate, HRSA reports.

Health centers’ participation in this program is growing; between 2016 and 2019, participation increased from 70% to 86% of HRSA-funded health centers, according to HRSA.