$10.8 million grant to help computerize health charts in Arizona
Posted: Apr 13, 2010
An Arizona non-profit has secured a $10.8 million federal award to help primary-care physicians establish and use computerized health-records systems.

The federal stimulus money awarded to Arizona Health-e Connection aims to establish health-information technology “regional extension centers” that help primary-care physicians adopt the use of electronic health-records systems.

Advocates of such systems say they have the potential to make health-care delivery more efficient, reduce medical errors and save money.

Brad Tritle, executive director of Arizona Health-e Connection, said the stimulus money will help Arizona primary-care establish electronic health records.

The stimulus money would pay Arizona Health-e Connection about $5,000 for each health-care provider. The money would be paid in installments after reaching milestones such as launching a computerized-records system or establishing “meaningful use” of a system.

The Arizona group will seek to roll out electronic health records at more than 1,200 primary-care practices across Arizona over the next two years. Tritle said his group can achieve that target by recruiting physicians that use existing systems as well as providers who still rely on paper records.

About 45 percent of Arizona physicians use some type of electronic medical-records system, according to a February report completed by Arizona State University’s Center for Health Information and Research.

It’s unknown how soon the money may be available. The Arizona Health-e Connection’s board still must vote to accept the federal award, possibly later this month. The non-profit also is consulting with vendors, insurers and others to figure out systems that may be reliable and inexpensive for doctors to use.

Primary-care groups with 10 or fewer health workers would be eligible.

The award is a small piece of the Obama administration’s efforts to push for the nationwide use of computerized health records. So far, the federal government has committed $2 billion in stimulus funds for adoption of computerized health records.

“We finally have the tools, the desire and the will to move forward,” said Doug Fridsma, an ASU faculty member and acting director of the federal Office of the National Coordinator’s Office of Interoperability and Standards, the federal agency that is establishing guidelines for use of electronic health records.

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