- The HHS agency that regulates the nation's health IT infrastructure has announced $2.5 million in funding for private data projects to advance development and use of interoperable health IT.
- The funds for this year's Leading Edge Acceleration Projects will be split across three areas: tools for advancing registry infrastructure for a standardized, application programming interface-based health IT ecosystem, scaling medical research and integrating medical and non-medical data to improve outcomes.
- The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for a more organized, fast-moving health IT infrastructure. ONC's announcement comes as public health experts call for greater coordination between state and federal government agencies to track the progression and intensity of the disease as it continues to spread across the U.S.
The unit has worked for much of the past few years on publishing sweeping rules to prohibit data blocking and give patients agency over their own healthcare data. The Trump administration finalized the two rules in early March, before the full weight of the coronavirus settled over the U.S., stressing the healthcare system and grinding the economy to a near halt.
ONC has now delineated $1 million for projects modernizing the registry infrastructure including APIs, the software that allows computers to send and receive messages from one another, $1 million for projects involving research tools that leverage open standards but could use broader uptake or new tools that need developing and $500,000 to improve electronic data sharing between healthcare providers and human services providers.
The injection of new funds comes following weeks of urging from the health IT and epidemiology spaces that the Trump administration work harder to monitor the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that's infected almost 390,000 people in the U.S. and killed more than 12,200 as of Tuesday night.
ONC is tracking more than 80 interoperability projects to combat the coronavirus outbreak, from a COVID-19 management system from health data player Innovaccer to a Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources-enabled triage platform from clinical software company Rimidi.
"As this pandemic has shown, there are opportunities to better leverage the infrastructure that [ONC] is developing — and these efforts help toward that end," Pew Charitable Trusts' health IT project lead Ben Moscovitch said Tuesday on Twitter in response to the new LEAP funding.
The $2.5 million LEAP investment for 2020 overshadows last year, where the federal government awarded two groups — the San Diego Regional Health Information Exchange and the University of Texas at Austin — almost $1 million each for their health IT projects in September. San Diego Regional HIE is using the two-year grant to work on developing a scalable consent framework for FHIR-based APIs and UT Austin is using it to create and test and patient engagement platform for an ecosystem of mobile applications upping the presence of underrepresented populations in health research.
Last year was the second funding year for the LEAP grants. The program launched in 2018.