AHRQ funding IT projects to boost safety, quality

Applications sought for more than 100 grants

As part of a larger initiative to support investments in information technology in the nation’s health care delivery system, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in Rockville, MD, is seeking applications for about 100 grants to plan, implement, and demonstrate the value of health information technology to improve patient safety and quality of care.

These grants will be part of a $50 million portfolio of grants, contracts, and other activities to demonstrate the role of health information technology to improve patient safety and the quality of care.

"These grants will give health care providers the resources they need to implement real-world health care information technology solutions to improve the quality and safety of health care," says AHRQ director Carolyn M. Clancy, MD.

The $41 million grant program, Transforming Healthcare Through Information Technology, includes grants for planning and implementation of health information technology in communities as well as grants to examine its value.

The awards, supporting more than 100 new research and demonstration projects, will comprise the core of AHRQ’s Health Information Technology portfolio.

Applications will be accepted from public and private nonprofit organizations, including universities, clinics, and hospitals; for-profit organizations (for implementation grants only); faith- based organizations; and state and local government agencies throughout the United States.

The agency expects to award up to $24 million to fund as many as 48 new implementation grants under the first request for applications (RFA), with up to $14 million going to small and rural hospitals and communities. The RFA emphasizes the importance of community partnerships. AHRQ will provide up to 50% of the total costs in matching funds, not to exceed $500,000 per year, for each project. Applications are due April 22, 2004. (Go to the NIH Guide at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-HS-04-011.html.)

As much as $7 million is expected to be awarded under the second RFA to fund up to 35 new planning grants to provide communities and organizations with the resources needed to develop their health information technology infrastructure and compete for future implementation grants. At least $5 million is expected to be used to support applicants from rural and small communities. Projects can last up to one year, and applicants may request budgets of up to $200,000 in total costs. Letters of intent are due March 22, 2004, and applications are due April 22, 2004. (Go to the NIH Guide at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-HS-04-010.html.)

Demonstrating the value derived from the adoption, diffusion, and use of health information technology will be the focus of the third RFA, awarding approximately $10 million to up to 20 new grantees. The objective of these projects will be to provide health care facilities and providers with the information they need to make informed clinical and purchasing decisions about using health information technology. Applicants may request budgets of up to $500,000 per year in total costs. Letters of intent are due March 22, 2004, and applications are due April 22, 2004. (Go to the NIH Guide at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-HS-04-012.html.)

The remainder of the $50 million portfolio will be spent on other activities, including the creation of a Health Information Technology Resource Center to aid grantees by providing technical assistance, provide a focus for collaboration, serve as a repository for best practices, and disseminate needed tools to help providers explore the adoption and use of health information technology to improve patient safety and quality of care.