Assessing the "groundswell of interest" in health information technology among communities nationwide, a new report from the Foundation for eHealth Initiative describes diverse approaches to building efficient health data networks.
The not-for-profit health IT collaborative has gathered data from 134 communities in 42 states and the District of Columbia that responded this fall to a "request for capabilities" to tap into $3.9 million in seed funding for electronic health information exchange projects.
To be eligible, proposals must include a minimum of three different stakeholder groups, a clinical focus, a commitment to the use of message and data standards, and dollar-for-dollar matching sources.
The report finds 24% of the projects submitted are organized by physicians groups.
"There is pretty heavy involvement of physicians at all levels" in most of the efforts, says Mark Overhage, M.D., chief investigator of the Regenstrief Institute for Health Care, Bloomington, Ind. More than 85% of the grant applicants include physicians on their advisory committees and 80% say physicians drive process change and adoption of IT in their healthcare communities. Some 70% involve doctors in usability testing of their IT systems.
Part of eHealth's newly launched Connecting Communities for Better Health (CCBH) program, the grants are being provided through a cooperative agreement with the Health Resources and Services Administration Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (HRSA/OAT).
Finalists, who will be invited to submit full requests for proposals, will be announced Dec. 22, and the entire portfolio of grant winners will be announced in early March, according to Lori Evans, CCBH program director.
Three to five large projects will be awarded about $400,000 to $500,000 per community, Evans says, and roughly four to 16 smaller projects, mostly in earlier stages of development, will earn grants of $50,000 to $70,000 each. The remaining $2.8 million will be used to provide resources, tools and lessons learned from the projects to be shared with anyone interested in health information exchange.
CCBH "will shed light on sustainable business models that allow communities to align incentives among those who pay for IT and those who benefit from its use," says eHealth CEO Janet Marchibroda.
"It's not just a grants program," Overhage insists. "Dangling the money helps communities crystallize their thinking. A lot of the value is not in the money to fund activities, but rather a point of focus to tap into other opportunities."