By Joseph Goedert

Out of the $2 billion in "jump-start" funding for health IT that is in the economic stimulus bill, $300 million is dedicated to "regional or sub-national" health information exchange initiatives, according to the congressional conference report.

Further, that $2 billion can start being distributed after the Secretary of Health and Human Services submits an annual operating plan to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The first plan is expected within 90 days of enactment of the stimulus bill. Subsequent annual plans are due by November 1 of each year until the funds run out.

So while federal departments often don't meet legislative deadlines, funds could start to be distributed this year if the department can work quickly enough to put the plan and any necessary rules together.

Within the stimulus conference report is a large section on health IT, called the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH Act, which will become law upon President Obama's signature.

It is within this section that the new national strategy for health information technology is spelled out. While President Bush called for the majority of Americans to have electronic health records by 2014, this act states a goal of all Americans having a certified EHR by that date.

The act also calls for the HHS secretary to appoint a chief privacy officer within the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Further, the stimulus bill conference report authorizes that $50 million be distributed to states to implement healthcare-associated infection reduction strategies. Previous versions of the bill authorized the funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The conference report, in rough form, and explanatory documents are available at rules.house.gov/.

 This article was originally publisjed on HealthDataManagement.com.

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