March 15, 2010

HHS’s Blumenthal Praises RI’s Leadership in Health Information Technology

Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Kennedy Join Obama Administration Official to Announce National HIT Grants

Washington, DC – Dr. David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (HIT) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), today joined Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman Patrick Kennedy at an event in East Providence where he praised Rhode Island’s efforts to make our health care delivery system more efficient and responsive to patients’ needs. Blumenthal was visiting Rhode Island following the recent allocation of over $11 million in federal grants to the Rhode Island Quality Institute to promote the adoption and effective use of health information technology. The grants, which were announced last month by the state’s congressional delegation, were funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

At today’s event Blumenthal announced a second wave of these grants which will help communities around the country follow Rhode Island’s lead in implementing HIT.

“With today’s announcement of awards to 16 states and State Designated Entities, all states and eligible territories across the country can now contribute to our common goal of enabling the seamless exchange of information, so that we can give patients the access to care they deserve and expect,” stated Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. “Rhode Island is an excellent example of the leadership role that states can play in advancing the development of the exchange capacity of healthcare providers and hospitals within their states and across the nation. Health information exchange will enable eligible healthcare providers to be deemed meaningful users of health IT and receive incentive payments under the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive program.”

“We’ve worked hard here in Rhode Island to implement health information systems that improve quality and lower costs,” said Whitehouse, who last year spearheaded the effort to create health IT regional extension centers to provide information and technical assistance to doctors who implement this new technology, an effort for which President Obama dedicated $643 million nationally, for which Rhode Island received a $6 million grant. Rhode Island additionally received $5.28 million to promote information exchange capacity within the state and with other states. “I believe our state can serve as a national model for the ongoing national expansion of health IT, and I look forward to working with Dr. Blumenthal to share with him the things we’ve learned from our efforts here.”

“As Chairman of the 21st Century Health Care Caucus, I have long recognized and advocated for the potential of health information technology. Incorporating these technologies to modernize our health care system will introduce tremendous cost savings and reduce the risk of medical errors,” said Kennedy. “RIQI has made Rhode Island a leader in health IT; they are to be commended not only for these recent awards but also for their exemplary leadership in bringing Rhode Island to the forefront of health IT initiatives nationally.”

Rhode Island has long been a national leader in health IT implementation. By giving doctors on-the-spot information and data; connecting doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals to allow medical records to be transferred electronically; and allowing health care facilities to track inpatients’ recovery progress, experts agree that health IT can reduce dangerous, unnecessary medical errors; cut health care costs; and significantly improve the quality of care patients receive. .

The Rhode Island Quality Institute, which Senator Whitehouse helped found during his time as the state’s Attorney General, has supported local doctors and hospitals looking to implement health information technology and has facilitated the growth of electronic prescribing throughout the state. Last fall, Rhode Island became the first state in the country to connect 100 percent of its retail pharmacies to an e-prescribing network.

The $11.28 million ARRA grants received last month by the Quality Institute will help to establish regional extension centers to further assist health care providers in integrating effective HIT systems, and will also help efforts to establish an integrated information exchange throughout the state.


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921