When the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality announced it was seeking applications for about 100 grants to plan, implement and demonstrate the value of health information technology to improve patient safety and quality of care, they underestimated the demand for assistance.
"We had about 1,000 letters of intent," says a beaming Scott Young, M.D., director of health IT at the AHRQ. "A little under 600 made it to the finish line. It's great."
A peer-review process of the surviving grant applications is already under way, in keeping with National Institutes of Health grant guidelines, Young says.
Next, the grants will be scored by one of three panels of judges, one panel for each of the three grant categories.
The multitudes are in the hunt to receive funding under the $41 million program called Transforming Healthcare Through Information Technology.
Awards have to be made by Sept. 30, Scott says.
The AHRQ initially planned to spend up to $24 million for as many as 48 grants to pay half the cost, up to $500,000 per year, for implementing IT projects that emphasize community partnerships. More than half of the money, $14 million, is earmarked for small and rural hospitals and communities.
The agency also will spend up to $7 million on 35 projects to help communities and organizations plan for future IT infrastructure projects. The one-year planning grants are capped at $200,000 each, and at least $5 million is targeted for rural and small communities.
Finally, the agency plans to give $10 million in grants to groups that can help healthcare facilities and providers with information on the value of IT so they can make better purchasing decisions. Up to 20 applicants will each receive up to $500,000.
The agency also has announced it will finance separately the creation of a Health Information Technology Resource Center that would serve as a library of best IT practices and a place to go for technical assistance.
"There is a flood of applications, and we know there are some great people out there," says Laura Adams, president of the Rhode Island Quality Institute, which has applied for a $200,000 AHRQ planning grant to develop an ambitious program of statewide clinical information connectivity. "It's a competitive field out there and getting more competitive all the time."
In a separate AHRQ program, Rhode Island is among 16 states seeking a five-year, $1 million annual grant to implement the foundation of the connectivity project--development of a master patient index.
Adams says she was pleasantly surprised so few states were able to apply for the money. "We're pretty pleased with that competitive deal," she says.