Health research initiative awarded, encourages innovation

Wednesday - 6/8/2011, 6:56pm EDT

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

A new federal initiative awarded about $5 million to health information technology groups Wednesday as part of a growing effort to make the research field more competitive.

The Investing in Innovations (i2) Initiative, recently formed by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), will ramp up competition for research and development in the health IT field by awarding prizes for creative problem-solving.

"It [i2] opens the door to new opportunities for open collaboration from a wide range of diverse individuals and organizations that will increase the national rate of innovation and adoption of health IT as we improve health care of all Americans," said Farzad Mostashari, the national coordinator for health information technology in a release.

Capital Consulting Corporation (CCC) and Health 2.0 LLC received the funding to provide new services, such as sharing health information on social networks, providing caregivers with better information on their patients and letting individuals stay in communication during natural disasters and emergencies.

HHS said the initiative stands out as one of the first major achievements stemming from the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which President Obama signed into law on Jan. 4. The act serves to increase competitiveness in U.S. workplaces.

ONC works to implement electronic exchange of health information and records nationwide, and to otherwise endorse health IT. Putting this technology in the rights hands, according to ONC, can better protect patient health records, improve health care quality, and to reduce costs.

The i2 Initiative will also monitor trends in health IT development by drawing connections from several independent research organizations working to solve the same challenges. ONC says tracking progress on these companies could influence policy-making and decide what technology gets funding.

"Through the i2 Initiative, ONC is directly supporting innovation in health IT to accelerate the nation's progress toward a high-performing, adaptive health care system," said Wil Yu, the special assistant for innovations within ONC.

Jory Heckman is an intern for Federal News Radio

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