In accordance with the HITECH Act, the Department of Health and Human Services today published in the Federal Register its proposal for a Health Information Technology Extension Program, consisting of a National Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC) and Regional Extension Centers (RCs).
“The major focus of the Centers’ work with most of the providers that they serve will be to help to select and successfully implement certified electronic health records,” according to the document, signed by Charles Friedman, deputy national coordinator for health information technology, and dated May 22.
Regional centers, the document continues, will prioritize their assistance to the following groups:
- Public or not-for-profit hospitals or critical-access hospitals.
- Federally qualified health centers (as defined in section 1861(aa)(4) of the Social Security Act).
- Entities that are located in rural and other areas that serve uninsured, underinsured, and medically underserved individuals (regardless of whether such area is urban or rural).
- Individual or small group practices (or a consortium thereof) that are primarily focused on primary care.
Though the process was not clear, the proposal states that regional centers, “will be evaluated to ensure they are meeting the needs of the health providers in their geographic area … ”
The proposal goes on to describe the types of organizations, associations and consortia that might be well suited to apply for RC status, and recommends any group spend a minimum of two months on its proposal. HHS anticipates giving two-year contracts to the regional centers, with the average award of $1 to $2 million. It predicts maximum awards of $10 million. Initial awards could go out in the first quarter of FY2010, continuing through the fourth quarter of that fiscal year.
Comments on the proposal are due within two weeks of its publication, putting the deadline at 5 pm on June 11.