Fed program spurs electronic health records in Utah
Stimulus » $15.8 milllion to boost use of high-tech in Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties.
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A new federal grant should propel Utah's effort to bring doctor's offices into the 21st Century by expanding the use of computerized medical charts and electronic tracking of chronic diseases, such as diabetes.

HealthInsight received a $15.8 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate a multi-pronged program focused in Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties. Vice President Joe Biden announced the grant Tuesday as one of 15 funded through the Beacon Communities project paid for by the economic stimulus act.

The non-profit company will team with state health officials and Intermountain Healthcare on the two-and-a-half year effort.

"It's not just about how many doctors have access to electronic health records," said David Sundwall, executive director of Utah's Health Department. "This will try to prove you can actually deliver better care if you are connected electronically."

The bulk of the money will help offset the cost of buying computer systems and training medical providers on how to use it. Some of the money will help cash-strapped physicians join the state's Clinical Health Information Exchange, known as cHIE, which allows doctors to access basic health information with a patient's permission throughout Utah.

And HealthInsight, a private non profit that works in Nevada and Utah, will expand an ongoing effort to track people with diabetes. Christie North, a HealthInsight vice president, said the company would create a diabetes registry that would alert patients when they need to schedule a test or seek treatment. The goal is to reduce unnecessary complications.

Utah has already made strides in the area of health information technology through state efforts, some of which involve HealthInsight. This grant is the largest cash infusion into the campaign and North expected it would help as many as 1,500 providers access and share medical records. This is a separate, but obviously connected, effort to a separate federal program involving HealthInsight, which would coordinate bonus payments for medical professionals who adopt electronic health records.

The Beacon Communities program is funded by $220 million in Recovery Act funds, just a piece of the administration's broader $2 billion effort to spur electronic health records. The recipients were selected from 137 applicants.

Other recipients include Community Services Council of Tulsa, Okla., which will focus on cancer screening and increased use of telehealth; the Geisinger Clinic in Pennsylvania, which will focus on congestive heart failure; and the Indiana Health Information Exchange program on improving cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

mcanham@sltrib.com

Fed program spurs electronic health records in Utah