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HHS Budget Includes More Money for ONC

March 6, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its 2015 budget proposal and it contains $75 million earmarked for the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to coordinate and support investments in “policies, standards, testing tools, and implementation guides that dramatically accelerate the adoption and meaningful use of certified Electronic Health Record technologies.”

This is $3 million less than what ONC was proposed to get in the 2014 budget, but $14 million more than what they were actually given. HHS wrote in its budget that it hopes with this total allocation, ONC will begin to address health IT-related patient safety issues under the Health IT Safety Center, which will analyze adverse health IT-related events and facilitate data based on those events.

“In FY 2015, ONC will start data collection and benchmark analysis of health IT-related adverse events to provide a baseline for the types and frequencies of events. The Center will analyze patient safety incidents associated with the use of (EHR) technology,” it says in the HHS budget. $5 million of the ONC’s budget would go to this center.

In addition, the budget provides support for activities that support the meaningful use programs including a certification program that test tools for developers prior to certification and strengthened surveillance activities; the Blue Button Program, and a National Learning Consortium that disseminates best practices to providers on how to optimize health information technology and effective guidelines to achieve meaningful use of EHRs. It also includes money for the privacy and security of patient data, an implementation of the Health IT Vanguard program—which highlights health IT champions in their communities, and an expansion of the public health IT dashboard.

Elsewhere, the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which monitors and enforces violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule, got $41 million in the proposed budget, $2 million than they received in FY 2014. The budget also included highlights of the accountable care organization (ACO) program and the shared-savings program, and potential savings under those initiatives.

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