New grants will focus on patient-provider portals

FRAMINGHAM (03/18/2004) - The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced this week it has made US$2.45 million available in grants "to study the effectiveness of patient-provider Web portals."

Grant funding is being awarded by the RWJF in conjunction with the Health e-Technologies Initiative (HETI), a national program office of the foundation overseeing healthcare technology-related issues, and supports systematic research in the evaluation of interactive e-health applications for health behavior change and chronic disease management.

Grants worth as much as $400,000 will be awarded to six to eight recipients, said Judy Phelan, HETI deputy director. Notification of grant awards will occur in July, and the deadline to register for grants is April 1. The two-year projects will officially begin in September.

"We are using these grants to try and learn various things about patient-provider portals, including secure messaging capabilities and if it improves quality of care and how patient interaction and involvement is affected," Phelan said. "Our big goal is to see how portals (can) enhance patient health status and behaviors, as well as help providers."

Secure messaging, electronic appointments, referrals, and patient access to electronic records will be major thrusts of the initiative, according to HETI's call for proposals.

Learning about the "importance of supplemental evidence-based care is a major driver," Phelan said. "We are evaluating technologies to gauge whether or not they (help to) provide positive outcomes. One challenge facing us is that this is a new research area, and there are more organizations that want funds compared to what is available."

Phelan also noted another obstacle is the issue of standards and infrastructure within organizations for technology development and how various applications will eventually communicate with each other.

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