Importantly, the environmental scan pointed to the rising trend of health center participation in community-wide information systems collaborations, which generally took the form of regional health center networks. Funding for health center network activities came from dedicated outside grants, usually from the BPHC. Networks are typically funded through programs such as the Integrated Services Development Initiative (ISDI), Shared Integrated Management Information Systems (SIMIS), and the Healthy Communities Access Program (HCAP). Several Federal funding programs that contributed to the formation of health center networks that are utilizing IT are summarized in the bullets below.
- Integrated Services Development Initiative (ISDI): The Integrated Services Development Initiative (ISDI) is a health center-focused grant that funds implementation of joint practice management systems and EHR across centers in a single area and health center collaborations to form integrated delivery systems designed to increase health center efficiency and effectiveness.
- Shared Integrated Management Information System program (SIMIS). The SIMIS grant program, administered by BPHC, supports inter-center collaboration on systems issues. Funded grantees typically design and implement common platform and tools for centralized billing, utilization review and quality assurance. Another goal of the program is to encourage integration of administrative and clinical information management functions within and across centers. The SIMIS program requires health centers to implement strategic models for community-wide systems decision-making.
- Healthy Communities Access Program (HCAP). HCAP funds models for enhancing integration of safety net services provided in any community. Grant dollars are not restricted to systems-specific initiatives, although nearly all recent grants include substantial allocation of funds for information systems issues. Examples of activities funded under the program include development of client eligibility tracking databases and establishment of a shared EHR system in a community.
- Integrated Communications and Technology (ICT). ICT grants support health centers in fostering the development of a technology infrastructure to integrate uniform clinical information with business systems and care management. In 2004, six ICT grants totaling $4.2 million were awarded.3
- Operational Networks (OPN). OPN grants provide support for existing health center networks by funding ongoing costs associated with the integration of mission-critical functions at the network level. OPN funds may also support comprehensive pharmacy networks in improving access to affordable medications, developing efficient pharmacy management, and improving patient outcomes through pharmaceutical care.4
- Transforming Healthcare Quality through Information Technology (THQIT). The THQIT initiative, launched in 2004 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), is a set of grant and contract programs aimed at promoting the use of health IT through the development of networks for sharing clinical data as well as projects for planning, implementing, and demonstrating the value of health IT. Several health centers are beneficiaries in the first round of funding under this program beginning in October of 2004.5
Thought leaders reported that, if sustained, networks could enable health centers to overcome the challenges associated with IT adoption and establish a common platform for practice management, EHR and clinical data systems across providers in a community. The environmental scan demonstrated growing interest and capacity of health centers to organize and meet those challenges through network activity. Thought leaders suggested that many health centers represent fertile ground for network-based IT initiatives.