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Stimulus Health Care Provisions Move From Planning to Doing

The federal government continues to move ahead with implementing various provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This update summarizes certain significant recent developments.

Federal Survey, Blog on Health IT

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently announced several initiatives to engage consumers on federal health IT efforts.  In the Oct. 28th Federal Register, ONC announced it will conduct a telephone survey of approximately 2,500 people to gauge consumers’ attitudes toward health information exchange. 

ONC also recently announced the Federal Advisory Committee Blog to keep consumers updated on the activities of the Health IT Policy and Standards Committees and solicit ongoing feedback.

HHS announced $27.8 million in awards to health center-controlled networks and large multi-site health centers to implement electronic health records and other health IT tools. 

Last month, HHS’ Office of the Inspector General released its 2010 work plan that detailed several health IT audits that needed to implement the Health IT for Economic and Clinical Health Act. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration released $1.5 million for the Licensure Portability Special Initiative to help state licensing boards reduce statutory and regulatory barriers to telemedicine. 

HHS’ Office of Interoperability Standards released a request for public input to help inform the development of harmonized standards and policies regarding the electronic exchange of consumer preferences over the management and control of access to the information.  Comments were due Oct. 16, 2009.

The Health IT Standards Committee met in October and focused on efforts to close the remaining gaps in standards and the need for clarification from the Health IT Policy Committee on its “meaningful use” recommendations. 

The Standards Committee’s newly created Implementation Workgroup held a series of hearings to identify enablers and barriers to the adoption and implementation of the standards. The workgroup will soon formalize a set of recommendations for the full Health IT Standards Committee. 

The Health IT Policy Committee also met in October, with the bulk of the meeting structured as a public hearing to gather information on the use of registries in meeting meaningful use objectives and hear from specialty providers on how the meaningful use requirements apply to specialists.  The committee’s Information Exchange Workgroup met to address issues related to the electronic exchange of laboratory data, including barriers presented by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment regulations.

Privacy, Security Comment Period Extended

Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in October urging HHS to revise or repeal the harm standard included in the breach notification interim final rule.

HHS announced an additional 60-day comment period on its breach notification interim final rule.  The original comment period expired Oct. 23.

HHS issued an interim final rule with a 60-day comment period to conform HIPAA enforcement rules to the HITECH revisions that strengthened HHS’ authority to impose civil monetary penalties.

Prevention, Wellness Grants Announced

CDC announced the release of an additional $120 million under its ARRA-funded Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative to support states’ efforts on chronic disease prevention and to increase tobacco cessation through expanded quit lines and tobacco cessation media.  Applications were due Nov. 24. 

HHS announced 63 awards totaling more than $7.6 million to address primary care physician shortages.

Broadband, Rural Grants Awarded

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration awarded the first four ARRA-funded grants under NTIA’s State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program to California, Indiana, North Carolina and Vermont.  The Department of Commerce and USDA’s Rural Utilities Service recently indicated they are leaning toward merging the second and third round of ARRA funds to expand broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas and are seeking public input on how to structure this next round of funding. 

The departments are scheduled to release the next round in December, with funding disbursements expected in summer 2010.

FCC released a report, “Barriers to Broadband Adoption: A Report to the Federal Communications Commission,” that discusses barriers to broadband adoption for use during its national broadband development planning. The report was written by New York Law School.

Last month, USDA’s Rural Development Community Facilities Program awarded $30 million to rural communities to promote the development of health care facilities.

Research Grant Programs

The National Cancer Institute released a request for proposals soliciting applications to expand the National Community Cancer Center Program to develop up to 14 additional community cancer centers.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality announced plans to competitively award funds for the Developing Evidence To Inform Decisions About Effectiveness (DEcIDE) Network to develop and disseminate valid scientific evidence to inform stakeholder decisions regarding the clinical effectiveness or the comparative effectiveness of medical treatments, technologies, tests, procedures or other clinical interventions. This opportunity is available to contractors under the DEcIDE Network multiple-award contract previously completed and awarded in 2005.

NIH announced that it is awarding 15 new grants to further develop and test the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS).

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