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AHRQ earmarks $41 million for healthcare IT projects

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Following the trend of increased investment in healthcare information technology, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) announced Nov. 24 it is seeking grant applications to distribute $41 million for implementation of new healthcare IT

Following the trend of increased investment in healthcare information technology, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) announced Nov. 24 it is seeking grant applications to distribute $41 million for implementation of new healthcare IT research and demonstration systems.

The agency expects to allocate $24 million in FY 2004 to fund up to 48 new implementation grants, with up to $14 million earmarked for rural and small hospitals.

"Proposals to establish teleradiology and telemedicine networks in rural, underserved areas would be among those applicants given consideration," said Dr. Scott Young, director of AHRQ's healthcare information technology program.

An applicant may request a project period of up to three years and a budget of up to $3 million in total costs (not to exceed $1 million per year in total combined federal and nonfederal costs), of which AHRQ will provide up to 50% of total project costs.

Another $7 million is expected to support up to 35 new planning initiatives, with at least $5 million of this going to small and rural communities. About $10 million will go to 20 grantees to study the value of healthcare IT, Young said.

The grant program is part of the AHRQ's $50 million portfolio of grants, contracts, and other programs to demonstrate how IT improves healthcare and promotes patient safety. The agency also will award $2 million to the Indian Health Service to enhance its electronic health record system.

Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations are eligible to apply for the AHRQ money.

The AHRQ announcement followed one day behind a report released by the Institute of Medicine calling for the government to create data standards for collecting and exchanging electronic medical information to help spur the healthcare industry's adoption of electronic medical records. Routine use of EMRs could help prevent deaths and injuries resulting from medical errors, according to the IOM report.

The proposed standards would be the basis of a national network for widespread sharing of health information The IOM also called for uniform formats and data standards for reporting medical errors and near misses.

The IOM report recommends that the federal government invest in parts of the information infrastructure and provide financial incentives to promote private-sector development of EMRs.

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