May 4, 2010

Whitehouse Praises Additional $15 Million Grant to Further RI’s Leadership in Health IT

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today joined Vice President Biden and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as they announced that a Rhode Island nonprofit is one of 15 entities awarded funding to advance the integrated, community-wide use of health information technology. The Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI) will receive $15.9 million from the “Beacon Communities” program, established as part of the Recovery Act’s overall $18 billion federal investment in health IT. Earlier this year, RIQI received two Recovery Act grants totaling $11 million to help build and implement a statewide Health Information Exchange, and to serve as Rhode Island’s regional extension center, assisting health care providers to adopt and integrate health IT systems. The Beacon grant brings the total to over $26 million for RIQI. Beacon Community grants are awarded only to national leaders in the advancement of health IT.

Whitehouse has been a leading advocate for creating the Beacon Communities program and has long contended that health IT investments should be targeted to projects with a strong track record and high likelihood of success. As Whitehouse noted in an April, 2009 letter to acting HHS Secretary Charles Johnson, “An influx of dollars into regions of the country with established HIT infrastructures will help capitalize on previous work, and create models that surrounding communities will want to join.” The Beacon Communities program represents a federal commitment to this approach.

“As we work to establish efficient, secure electronic health records throughout the country, we must also back the leaders blazing trails for other communities to follow. The Beacon Communities will serve as models to providers and other health IT adopters nationwide,” Whitehouse said today. “Rhode Island’s inclusion in this groundbreaking program is a testament to the leadership of the Rhode Island Quality Institute and others who have worked so hard over the years to make Rhode Island a national leader.”

“Senator Whitehouse has been a leader on this issue at both the state and national level and he deserves credit for helping to bring this Beacon Community program to fruition. This $15.9 million in Recovery Act funding should serve as a catalyst to improve health care as well as provide an opportunity to create jobs and economic activity in our state,” said Senator Jack Reed.

“This RI Beacon community grant will support twelve distinct projects throughout the state designed to drive positive change in the quality, cost efficiency, and population health outcomes,” said Laura Adams, president and CEO, RIQI. “The goal is to build a foundation of health IT capabilities which will help advance patient centered medical home programs and close gaps in public reporting in order to better address key patient and health system issues such as diabetes management, adult immunization rates, and preventable emergency department visits and rehospitalizations.”

The Beacon Communities program is intended to establish a series of fully operable health IT “communities” around the country to serve as models for the rest of the nation. The selected Beacon Communities will bring doctors, hospitals, community health programs, federal programs and patients together to design new ways of improving quality and efficiency to benefit patients and taxpayers.

Senator Whitehouse has been a champion of health information technology since his time as Rhode Island’s Attorney General. In 2001, then Attorney General Whitehouse recognized that, despite Rhode Island’s small size, the health care community operated in silos. Believing that the state needed a unified voice to address the issue of health care quality, he founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI), a collaboration focused on producing significant, measurable improvements in health care quality, safety, and value in the state. Whitehouse has also been one of the most consistent proponents of health IT in the Senate. He introduced the National Health Information Technology and Privacy Advancement Act, which proposed a national not-for-profit organization tasked with developing a nation-wide, interoperable, secure health IT system. He also authored the provision of the Recovery Act establishing the Regional Extension Center Program, for which RIQI received funding earlier this year.


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