Fed IT project grants draw heavy provider interest

By Healthcare IT News
12:00 AM

Although the Bush administration is dangling the prospect of $100 million in future grants before the eyes of providers, the real interest among hospitals and healthcare systems remains in a $50 million portfolio of grants for healthcare information technology projects that's available right now.

A series of technical assistance calls sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has drawn big audiences, the agency reported. For example, one call on demonstrating the value of healthcare information technology drew more than 210 registrants. The next call, on planning healthcare IT projects, was expected to have 240 registrants.

The planning activity was in advance of a Feb. 6 deadline for submitting a letter of intent to apply for a grant. While submitting a letter wasn't required, those that were filed will help AHRQ in planning for an expected high volume of grant requests, said Scott Young, MD, director for the health IT portfolio of grants. Applications are due April 22.

He and two other staffers are being inundated with requests for information on the grants, he said.

"Each of us is getting between 10 and 15 phone calls a day, and even more e-mails per day," Young said. "We'd like to cast our net very wide in distributing these grants."

The bulk of the program, the $41 million Transforming Healthcare Through Information Technology, includes grants for planning and implementing healthcare information technology, to support more than 100 new research and demonstration projects.

Of that total, AHRQ expects to award as much as $24 million to fund as many as 48 new implementation grants, with $14 million designated for small and rural hospitals and communities.

Also, some $7 million will be awarded for as many as 35 new planning grants, with $5 million aimed at rural and small communities. Finally, $10 million will be awarded to as many as 20 grant winners who have projects to demonstrate the value of healthcare IT.

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