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September 26, 2016

US federal government invests 87 mln dollars in improved EHR’s

The US Department of HHS (Health and Human Services) has allocated over $87.4 million in health information technology grants to health and behavioral health centers in every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Pacific Basin.

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“Health centers across the country are instrumental in providing high-quality, comprehensive primary health care to millions of people,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia  Burwell. “This investment will help unlock health care data and put it to work, improving health outcomes and building a better health care system for the American people.”

The money will be used to enhance electronic health records systems and to promote interoperability of those systems at 1,310 centers as they “transition to value-based models of care, improve efforts to share and use information to support better decisions, and increase engagement in delivery system transformation,” an HHS statement said.

Federally qualified health centers have benefited from inclusion by the Obama administration in the federal EHR incentive payment program that also helped make the "meaningful use" of EHRs near ubiquitous among hospitals and office-based physician practices. According to a HHS news release, nearly 1,400 health centers provide care to more than 24 million people. Today, health centers employ nearly 190,000 people.

This funding comes from the Affordable Care Act’s Community Health Center (CHC) Fund, which was extended with bipartisan support in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015. The increased use of health information technology is part of the administration’s efforts to build a health care system that delivers better care, smarter spending and healthier people. New grant amounts ranged from $42,247 to support a single health center in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth, to $12.4 million to be divvied up between 168 clinics in California.

In March 2010, President Obama signed comprehensive healthcare reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), into law.  The law aims to make health coverage more accessible and affordable for many Americans, while improving quality and reducing costs. 

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