States put federal health IT dollars to work

In the wake of last week’s $267 million in grants from the US Department of Health and Human Services, states are organizing to leverage their respective recipients’ new-found health IT war chests. By creating Regional Extension Centers, HHS hopes to accelerate adoption of electronic health records and states hope to align themselves for more funding down the road.

In California, the Los Angeles-based non-profit Local Initiative Health Authority is the latest in a string of grant winners, brining the state’s investments in health IT to more than $122 million. Local Initiative Health Authority won $15.6 million in Recovery Act funds last week to develop a health IT regional extension center in Los Angeles. Local Initiative Health Authority for Los Angeles County operates L.A. Care Health Plan, the largest public health plan in the nation, providing services to nearly 800,000 residents.

Maryland’s Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP) was one of the twenty-eight groups to receive Regional Extension grant money last week from HHS. CRISP is Maryland’s statewide health information exchange, tasked with delivering an integrated and interoperable health information system across Maryland’s network of hospitals, private physicians, insurers, public health officials, advocate groups, pharmacists and others.

CRISP’s share of the $267 million was $5.5 million, but Gov. O’Malley said the federal support will help build on the successful programs already implemented in his state. Maryland’s Health Care Commission received $9.3 million earlier this year to stand up the statewide HIE, ultimately leveraged through CRISP.

“Patients and doctors need better access to information technology and a more robust platform to share important information,” Gov. O’Malley said in a statement. “This Federal support will go a long way to build on the successful programs many hospitals and practices have already implemented and will, in the long run, save patients, insurers and taxpayers money.”

Maine’s HIE, HealthInfoNet, received a $4.7 million grant last week as part of the same pot that CRISP received money. And to leverage those funds, Governor John Baldacci established a state health IT coordinator and a Health Information Steering Committee. The Steering Committee and Coordinator will oversee EHR adoption, HIE expansion and other health IT projects around the state.

“This is an important step in reaching our goal to increase quality and efficiency in health care delivery,” said Gov. Baldacci. “With our public and private partners, we have been working hard to improve care that all Maine people receive. All together, the additional funds and the creation of the State infrastructure to support and plan for collaborative efforts to advance health information technology will help Maine meet the goals of the State and the federal government.”

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