Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is dedicating a total of $220 million in grants to support test cases for health-care IT and data exchange within 15 communities, the department announced Wednesday, Dec. 2.

The initiative, called the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program, will build infrastructure for health IT, and will implement privacy and security measures for the health-care information that is exchanged, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Dr. David Blumenthal, the department's national coordinator for health IT, jointly announced in a press release.

The participating communities have not yet been named. Cooperative agreements will be awarded to 15 nonprofit or government entities chosen to reflect geographic diversity, according to the HHS.

"The Beacon Community Program will help provide more hard evidence that health IT exchange can make a significant and positive difference in the delivery and value of care," Blumenthal said in a statement.

According to the HHS, for eligibility the participating entities will have to:

  • build from existing health IT infrastructure and exchange to demonstrate care and cost savings;
  • have rates of electronic health record (EHR) adoption that are "significantly higher" than published national estimates; and,
  • coordinate with the recently announced Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology programs for Regional Extension Centers and State Health Information Exchange to develop and disseminate best practices for adoption and meaningful use of EHRs to support national goals for widespread use of health IT.

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