Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Wednesday that $235 million in funds are being made available to "help us get a better handle on how health information technology will improve the quality care that Americans get."
The grants will support 15 "beacon communities," which are hospital systems, provider groups, and state and local governments "at the forefront of the new technology—already using cutting-edge technology," she said at a briefing.
"The dollars are designed to help these communities expand and strengthen their health IT systems. Their experiences will help us answer key questions [such as] what sorts of health benefits will we get when we make concentrated investments in health information technology," she said.
These communities are in a good position to lead the way in promoting meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR). Their experiences will be viewed as guidance for other healthcare communities and organizations in adopting health IT, she said.
David Blumenthal, MD, the national coordinator for health information technology, said the program is part of a series of programs that are meant to implement the HITECH provisions of the economic stimulus legislation.
The intent for the members of the beacon communities is "to be of service to their local communities, to inspire and teach other communities about how to get to meaningful use, and to be an improved, more efficient higher quality healthcare system that benefits not just local populations but every American," he said.