Office of the National Coordinator Health Programs
The Office of the National Coordinator is overseeing a historic effort to improve healthcare nationwide with a system that takes full advantage of enhanced health information technology (HIT). Government officials have called the stimulus money directed toward this groundbreaking effort an unprecedented investment in HIT.
The National Coordinator is the principal HIT adviser to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Office of the National Coordinator, usually referred to as ONC or ONCHIT, has a $2-billion slice of the stimulus pie with which to begin implementing the new infrastructure. The funds are targeted at ensuring the privacy and security of health records, improving the quality of health care, reducing medical errors, and promoting a competitive marketplace with increased choices for consumers.
Of the $2 billion, $300 million is designated for loans, grants and incentives to support regional and local efforts to implement and share electronic health data. The stimulus measure calls for the creation of a national Health Information Technology Research Center and affiliated regional centers to help medical providers adopt and adapt to HIT and share successful strategies. In fiscal year 2010,which starts in October 2009, two-year awards of $1 million to $2 million will be given to regional centers; recipients must be affiliated with a nonprofit group or organization.
More than $24 million will be used to enhance the security and privacy of health records; this includes mandated audits by federal agencies and the training of state attorneys general on their new enforcement role. And $20 million will be transferred to the National Institute of Standards and Technology to continue testing the security of products being used to store and share health information electronically.
Possible spending targets for the remaining $1.6 billion in discretionary funds designated for the ONC include promoting the use of telemedicine, expanding HIT in public health settings and training HIT users. In addition, the ONC is spearheading a program to provide grants to states or state-designated entities to facilitate the use and sharing of electronic health information. Another option being considered is the awarding of competitive grants to states and American Indian tribes so that they can establish loan programs for healthcare providers setting up electronic health records (EHRs). These loans would be used to purchase certified EHR technology and train personnel in its use.
The ONC’s operating plan can be viewed clicking here.