Colorado Economic Recovery and Accountability

Health IT

Health IT

Connecting Colorado in the 21st Century

Better Value in Health Care through Health

Information Technology

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes a section called the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which authorizes the distribution of about $48.8 billion across the country to build and effectively use information technology to improve health care services. The HITECH Act provides:

 

  • $2 billion in loans, grants and technical assistance to advance the use of health information technology and exchange on a state and regional basis, and to support IT-related workforce training programs and research and development projects.
  • $34 billion nationally for Medicare and Medicaid health care providers through incentive payments for those who use health information in a meaningful way. These funds will be distributed between 2011 and 1016 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Colorado health care providers could receive $468 million in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments
  • At least $300 million nationally for planning and implementation of health information exchange systems in states.

 

These funds are being distributed by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC-HIT) and other agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Building a strong health care IT infrastructure is part of Gov. Bill Ritter's Building Blocks for Health Care Reform, a policy initiative announced in 2008. In April 2009, Gov. Ritter recognized the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) as a leader in state health information technology efforts and designated it as the state-level entity that will coordinate the state's efforts to effectively use funds from the HITECH Act portion of the Recovery Act.

CORHIO is a non-profit organization, established in 2007, dedicated to improving the health of all Coloradans by facilitating statewide health information exchange. The Governor's Office is working closely with CORHIO to develop a statewide plan that meets federal application requirements and ensure Colorado gets its fair share of funds to enable success in the state's health IT efforts.

Although Colorado does not currently have statewide health information exchange, several regions in the state including Mesa and Weld counties are national leaders in the development of secure, coordinated health care IT systems. In late 2008 CORHIO partnered with Denver Health & Hospital Authority, University of Colorado Hospital, Children's Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Colorado to implement the pilot known as the Point of Care Inquiry Demonstration Project. The project helped CORHIO to build a secure health information exchange system that has allowed the four major health care facilities in Denver to share vital medical information, allowing them to offer safer, more informed care to thousands of patients. On July 22, 2009 the Governor's Office of Information Technology, the Colorado Technology Association, CORHIO, the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, the University of Colorado and the Governor's Innovation Council held the Colorado Health Information Exchange (HIE) Planning Conference. This day-long conference took place at the Tivoli Student Union on the Auraria Campus in Denver, and was attended by more than 300 people -- including IT companies and health care providers. The focus of the meeting was to bring public and private sector stakeholders together to discuss how to leverage Recovery Act funds to advance the state's adoption of health information exchange in order to improve the health of all Coloradans.

Currently CORHIO is working with a wide spectrum of organizations representing the perspectives of consumers, insurers, health care providers, employers and others to develop a key component of improving health IT in Colorado and applying for the federal funds to support the state health information exchange plan. In September 2009, CORHIO will be surveying Coloradans across the state about existing health IT resources. The CERAB website will include that survey.

On Aug. 20, 2009, the federal government released guidelines about two of the smaller HITECH Act funds:

  1. A $564 million fund known as the State Cooperative Agreements to Promote Health Information Technology: Planning and Implementation Projects. These grants will be given to states or designated state organizations and will range from $4 million to $40 million. Applications are due Oct. 16, 2009. More information on the grant is available; click here.
  2. A $598 million fund known as the Regional Centers part of the Health Information Technology Extension Program. This program is expected to distribute 70 grants between $1 and $30 million to non-profit agencies and applications are due on Aug. 3, 2010. More information about this grant is available; click here.


CORHIO will coordinate the submission of applications for the above grants. For more information visit the ARRA section of the CORHIO website. Additionally, you can read the Colorado Health Foundation's report on recommendations for advancing Colorado's health information network using the Recovery Act funds.