Senator Jay Rockefeller today announced $475,000 in federal funding from the health reform law for the West Virginia Primary Care Association in Charleston to connect existing electronic health records to help health centers across West Virginia improve clinical care.
"Access to primary care boosts the health of all West Virginians, and the West Virginia Primary Care Association has a very meaningful role in supporting those services," said Rockefeller. "They support a large network of health care providers and community health centers across the state, and this award will strengthen that network even more. By using electronic health records to create a robust pool of secure information, health centers across the state will collaborate to improve health care quality, target physician and technician training, and lower overall medical costs. Making sure West Virginians have access to quality health care is so important and this organization is helping to make sure it's available and constantly improving."
The grant will give the West Virginia Primary Care Association the opportunity to create a network that will connect electronic health records from multiple health centers across the state and collect data to help broadly identify areas for improvement in clinical care and provider training.
Rockefeller played a strong role in making sure the health reform law helps rural health care providers get the resources to create and upgrade their electronic health records. While the law has greatly improved access to these resources, more still needs to be done to get them to rural providers. That's why Rockefeller cosponsored the Medicaid Information Technology to Enhance Community Health Act (MITECH) this year. The bill would extend payments to qualified clinics to adopt and use electronic health records. In 2009, Rockefeller also introduced the Health Information Technology Public Utility Act, to help facilitate nationwide adoption of electronic health records among safety-net health care providers, including rural clinics.
The West Virginia Primary Care Association is comprised of 30 organizational members with over 160 clinical sites that employ more than 3,297 people, including 1,088 health care providers. Collectively, the centers provide care for nearly 20 percent of West Virginia's population.
The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Service Administration's Health Center Controlled Networks (HCCN) grant program. This gives health centers across the United States funding to implement and improve advanced health information technology (HIT), including the use of electronic health records (EHRs).