US$1.2 billion pledge for digital health technologies

Networks and information sharing technologies to boost health serives

The US government has pledged US$1.2 billion to help hospitals and clinicians develop and implement systems for digital health records and information sharing.

In an announcement made yesterday by Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the government said it was awarding $598 million in grants to “establish approximately 70 Health Information Technology Region Extension Centres” to consult hospital technicians when they buy and deploy electronic health record systems. The government is also issuing $564 million in grants to support information sharing technologies within the digital health networks.

Dr David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health IT, said that the grants would “begin the process of creating a national, private, secure electronic health information system” to “help doctors and hospitals acquire electronic health records and use them… to improve the health of patients and reduce waste and inefficiency.”

The digital health grants are being funded by the economic stimulus package passed by Congress earlier this year.

In addition to funding the digitization of health care records, the stimulus package has also designated $7.2 billion to fund broadband infrastructure investment. Of that money, $4.7 billion has been allotted to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to award grants for projects that will build out broadband infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas; deliver broadband capabilities for public safety agencies; and stimulate broadband demand through training and education.

The remaining $2.5 billion in broadband stimulus money has been allotted to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make loans to companies building out broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

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