ONC announces 3 new health IT funding opportunities

Three new health IT funding opportunities were recently announced by The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Combined, the grants offer over $36 million. Two of the recently issued funds target community and workforce health development, while the third focuses more on supporting the ONC's interoperability plans.

Interoperability remains priority
According to EHR Intelligence, the ONC has made it clear that interoperability is a major aspect to improving care quality, practice workflow and documentation processes within the health care industry. The organization recently released a roadmap, which gathered data from over the past 10 years that the ONC feels is crucial to finalizing its long-term interoperability plans.

"Great progress has been made to digitize the care experience, and now it's time to free up this data so patients and providers can securely access their health information when and where they need it," said Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in response to the interoperability roadmap. "A successful learning system relies on an interoperable health IT system where information can be collected, shared, and used to improve health, facilitate research, and inform clinical outcomes."

The recent funding opportunities are designed with goals that are set to enhance interoperability. 

3 new funds set to improve health IT
Of the three grants, the largest is the Advance Interoperable Health Information Technology Services to Support Health Information Exchange FOA, providing $28 million in funding for grantees. The other funding opportunities are the Workforce Training to Educate Health Care Professionals in Health Information Technology and Community Health Peer Learning Program FOAs, which make a total $6.4 million and $1.7 million, respectively, available to grantees. 

The first and largest FOA was created to support and contribute to the progress made by the State Health Information Exchange Program. Since the information exchange program's start five years ago, it has made more than $550 million in funding available for states and territories that are working on the design of health information exchange strategies with the guidance of the ONC.

The second grant works to train health care workers to learn the ins and outs of new health information technologies, such as electronic health records. These systems have greatly assisted the health care industry in becoming more efficient and promoting better health. The third grant aims to enhance care quality, which has become an issue throughout the nation. Improvements will be achieved through the use of flexible health IT technology that enhances the use of data, informs payment reform and reduces redundancy.

How can grantees achieve these new funding opportunities?
For grantees to be awarded these millions of dollars in new funds, the ONC has recommended three goals to help. 

The first goal is to expand the adoption of health information exchange technology, tools, services and policies that enable interoperable exchange and tools, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Send, receive and find capabilities in accessing health information from external sources to incorporate into the care provider's clinical and nonclinical workflows and interactions with patients is the focus of the second goal. The ONC suggests that grantees work to facilitate and enable these capabilities. 

The final goal encourages grantees to increase the integration of health data within interoperable health IT. This integration supports decision making and care procedures to enhance both patient health and care. 

There could be up to 12 cooperative agreements given to states, state-designated entities and territories. For their target populations, each applicant is required to choose one or more eligible providers and at least two non-eligible care providers. 

2 goals set for CHP program
As many as 10 communities will be chosen for the Community Health Peer Learning Program. There are two major goals the selected communities are expected to achieve over the course of two years. 

Beginning the development and implementation of a community work plan that is both measurable and actionable is the first goal. The objective is to enhance the use of health information through data analysis, aggregation and portability. 

The second goal is centered on establishing peer learning, stakeholder engagement, subject matter expert guidance and the development and dissemination of key resources that point to important aspects, such as the most effective practices, case studies and strategies to help with the implementation of the actionable community work plan. These tasks will assist with accessing and cultivating partnerships within various communities.

Workforce Training FOA focuses on 4 areas
The Workforce Training to Educate Health Care Professionals in Health Information Technology funding opportunity lasts for two years and highlights the importance of developing training materials in four areas. 

The four areas include population health, value-based care, care coordination and new care delivery and payment models. These will be issued publicly once the grant period expires. After the first year of the program, grantees will work with these materials to train close to 6,000 health care workers.

Therefore, all three grants present grantees with the opportunity to help the health care industry improve technology through enhanced interoperability.