Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange Receives $400,000 Federal Grant
The Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange will receive a $400,000 federal grant to expand its electronic health records database, HHS announced Thursday, the Santa Barbara News-Press reports (Freed, Santa Barbara News-Press, 7/23). HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on Wednesday outlined the Bush administration's 10-year plan to improve the nation's health information technology and implement a broader EHR system. President Bush in May proposed the plan, and Thompson at a recent HHS health IT summit said that establishing an EHR system could save the United States at least $140 billion annually.
The Bush administration set aside $50 million for EHR projects in 2004 and included $100 million for such projects in its 2005 budget. The federal government is planning to fund a variety of pilot projects that will encourage technological transparency and advancements. The HHS plan lists nine communities that have been awarded more than $2 million to begin pilot projects through an agreement between the government and the Foundation for eHealth Initiative. The federal government is expected to award an additional $60 million in grants by the end of the year (California Healthline, 7/22). Lammot DuPont, program manager for the eHealth Initiative, said SBCCDE "is in elite company. There are few peers." The data exchange, which began five years ago with a $10 million grant from the California HealthCare Foundation, links patient information among health care providers using a peer-to-peer based system.
With the grant, officials said patients eventually will be able to access their own EHRs through the database, which currently is available only to health care providers. Doctors who use the system said they supported expanding the exchange provided that it remains secure. According to the News-Press, a recent audit of the system by a private security firm found that a "handful of risk areas" existed in the system. Mike Skinner, the exchange's executive director, said, "Our technology vendor has gone back and addressed those risk areas, and we are going to have the system re-audited." Patients with privacy concerns will be able to sign a waiver to opt out of the project (Santa Barbara News-Press, 7/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.