By | April 7, 2010 12:00 am

ORLANDO, April 7, 2010 — The University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine received a $7.6 million federal grant Tuesday designed to help Central Florida doctors develop and effectively use electronic health records to improve patient care.

UCF’s grant is part of $642 million that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is providing to establish Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers (RECs). The grant enables doctors throughout Central Florida to reach out to the REC for technical assistance, guidance, and best practices in electronic health records.

Deborah German, M.D., dean of UCF’s College of Medicine, called the award “a milestone” for the college. “This substantive grant will allow us to have direct impact in the delivery of care to patients throughout Central Florida,” she said. “We will be building important bridges with the physicians of this community and providing them with needed electronic tools to practice medicine in a way that is safer and of higher quality.” Jeanette Schreiber, associate dean of the College of Medicine, partnered with the Florida Heath Care Coalition and Central Florida Regional Health Information Organization in submitting the grant proposal. “The entire community was involved in this application,” she said. “We will all work together to build this Health IT resource for Central Florida.”

Those sentiments were echoed by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Health care in our country is community-based,” she said. “Today’s awards represent our ongoing commitment to make sure that health providers have the necessary support within their communities to maximize the use of health IT to improve the care they provide to their patients.”

Electronic health systems provide a number of advantages for patients. They can help diagnose or predict medical problems based on patient test results, such as blood work and body mass levels. These systems also can prevent dangerous drug interactions and provide a common communications framework for patients seeing a number of doctors and specialists.

Tuesday’s awards bring the total number of RECs in the United States to 60 that will provide outreach and technical support to at least 100,000 primary care providers and hospitals within two years. The primary care provider is usually the first medical practitioner a patient contacts. Studies have also found that primary care providers are at the forefront of practicing preventative medicine, a key to improving health and reducing overall health costs. The awards are part of a $2 billion effort by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to achieve widespread, meaningful use of health IT and provide use of an electronic health record to every person by the year 2014.

The grant, number 90RC0043/01, is awarded by the Office of the National Coordinator, Health and Human Services.

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