The U.S. Commerce Department has committed $63 million to help fund 10 health information technology projects that carry a high potential for major economic benefits to the nation but also a high financial risk.
The projects aim to increase the efficiency of healthcare delivery by automating information that identifies unneces-Information systems
sary practices, simplifying dissemination of data and engineering shortcuts to developing sophisticated software.
The grants will be matched by $66 million from industry sources sponsoring the projects, contingent on the signing of formal agreements with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an arm of the Commerce Department.
The institute's Advanced Technology Program concentrates on technical barriers and business challenges. The federal infusion aims to accelerate research and development "that industry otherwise would not undertake, or would not devote significant resources to, because of the technical risks involved," the Commerce Department said.
The department gave thumbnail sketches of the projects in announcing the winners. About $70 million was awarded last year through the same process (Dec. 5, 1994, p. 49).
About a third of this year's grant money-$21.3 million-went to a project aimed at supporting a series of medical specialty practice knowledge banks. The consortium of three AT&T divisions, a software company and Pittsburgh-based Allegheny-Singer Research Institute will focus on the technology to gather, analyze and retrieve medical information. The total cost of the project was estimated at $51 million.
A joint venture that includes information systems vendor Shared Medical Systems Corp., General Electric Corp. and BellSouth Telecommunications requested $19 million toward the $39 million cost of developing a secure, comprehensive and simple way to move information around a wide geographic area. It's the second ATP program sponsored by the Healthcare Open Systems and Trials consortium, a wide-ranging initiative of 44 healthcare organizations.
A technical challenge proposed by the Koop Foundation in Rockville, Md., aims to develop a framework of computer architecture that will simplify and accelerate new healthcare software development. The government is expected to pay $10 million of the $20 million cost. The project has more than a dozen partners.
The 3M Co. will develop a structure enabling an automated system to alert healthcare providers to unwise, unnecessary or wasteful therapeutic decisions or practices. The project is part of an integrated database of patient information being developed by the Murray, Utah-based information systems vendor. The federal program's proposed share is $2 million of the $4.3 million cost.