News in Brief: Week of Feb. 3-7

February 05, 2014 03:23 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

PCORI Announces $206 Million in Research Support

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), an independent nonprofit organization, has announced it is offering as much as $206 million to fund a range of patient-centered comparative effectiveness research projects.

According to a Feb. 5 press release from the organization(, the funding effort includes as much as $90 million to support six to nine large pragmatic studies that address the practical questions faced by patients, clinicians and other decision-makers in typical care settings such as hospitals and clinical practices.

In addition, PCORI will release as much as $20 million to fund one or two pragmatic randomized trials aimed at comparing the effectiveness of obesity treatment options delivered in primary care settings to medically underserved adults. Another $15 million will be disbursed to study the effectiveness of transitional care services.

The Funding Center page on the PCORI website( has additional information and key dates related to these and other PCORI funding opportunities.

CCHIT Drops EHR Testing, Certification Roles

The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT), an organization founded in 2004 that has been certifying electronic health records (EHRs) since 2006, recently announced what it is calling a "new strategic direction that will return it to its founding public mission of supporting the adoption of robust, interoperable health information technology."

In a Jan. 29 press release(, CCHIT announced it will no longer offer EHR testing and certification services. The organization cited "the challenges of more rigorous criteria and testing," as well as uncertainty about the timing and nature of future federal requirements as reasons for the transition.

CCHIT Executive Director Alisa Ray said the new focus would allow the organization to provide more support and counsel to health care professionals and health IT vendors than was possible in its role as a government-authorized certification body.

CMS Announces Grant Program for Rural Hospitals

In a plan to bolster access and improve health care in rural areas, CMS announced that rural hospitals can apply for federal grants as part of a three-year demonstration project.

The program, called the Frontier Community Health Integration Project Demonstration(, is designed to expand acute-care or extended-care services in sparsely populated areas where delivery of care is limited because of current Medicare payment rules. In hospitals with integrated services, patients could receive necessary care in the hospital, as an outpatient or at home without increasing Medicare or Medicaid costs.

Officials identified four sectors that are eligible for potential funding: nursing facility care within the hospital, telemedicine, ambulance services and home health. Another goal of the initiative is to reduce hospital admissions and transfers to other facilities.

Only critical-access hospitals are eligible to apply. Applications are limited to hospitals in Alaska, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Wyoming. The deadline for submitting applications is May 5. Applicants are expected to outline how the services would enhance patient care without increasing Medicare costs.

HHS OIG Report Shows Health Center Grantees Struggle With MU Objectives

A summary of findings from a recently released report( from the HHS Office of the Inspector General indicates that many health centers participating in certain grant projects called "health center controlled networks" are having difficulty meeting stage one electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use objectives related to data sharing.

The report says that health centers incur additional EHR-related costs to achieve data sharing and that 76 percent of health centers report facing "financial sustainability challenges."

Report authors urged the Health Resources and Services Administration -- the organization responsible for providing the grant monies -- to, among other things, provide guidance and technical assistance to participating health centers and collect information on the financial sustainability of individual health centers' EHR systems.