HHSignite (beta) Launched

HHSignite (beta), an internal competitive seed-funding opportunity to test new and unconventional ideas at HHS was just launched to gain evidence for solutions to challenges. The program hopes to support up to 8 innovative concepts with budgets of $10,000 or less that can be completed within 6 months.

HHS is looking for early steps of concepts that are entirely new to the agency that support the Secretary’s priorities. Proposals can also go towards a process already underway but looking to take an unconventional next step.

In addition to the funds, HHSignite teams will be able to consult with HHS leaders, be introduced to HHSentreprenuers, a program that pairs innovative employees with experts outside of government to tackle difficult problems, and interact with top innovators at HHS. Awardees will also be exposed to flexible approaches in problem solving.

The program is looking for projects such as:

  • New or improved program/operations/scientific processes such as streamlining the grant application or contracting process, or new tools or methods to help HHS comply with operational standards and laws
  • New or significantly improved technologies to help HHS or stakeholders
  • New or enhanced collaborative partnerships to expand relationships with federal or non-federal partners
  • New or improved methods to disseminate information
  • New or improved methods for developing the workforce such as using distance learning and webcasts
  • New or improved ways to help HHS meet public health and sustainability goals

 

HHSignite (beta) is open to all HHS employees and the teams may include individuals from outside of HHS or government. However, project leads must be full time employees with HHS.

HHSignite (beta) was launched March 19, 2013 with May 15, 2013 the last day to submit a proposal. Go to www.hhs.gov/open/initiatives/ignite/index.html for more information.

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Caring for Dementia Patients

In a partnership with the Veterans Administration’s medical centers and local Alzheimer’s Association chapters in Boston and Houston set up a five year trial so that two person care coordinator teams could provide telephone-based support to patients with dementia and their caregivers over a 12 month period. The VA serves more than 570,000 veterans with dementia.

The trial served veterans mostly male averaging 60 and older with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, or other dementia. The teams addressed medical and nonmedical needs through education, coaching, links to needed resources, and mobilization of an informal care network known as “Partners in Dementia Care”. (more…)

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Bills Introduced on the Hill

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced to improve care for diabetic patients. Senators Jeanne Shakeen (D-NH) and Diabetes Caucus Co-Chair along with Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced new legislation to establish a commission of healthcare experts to advance diabetes care and prevention.

The bill titled the “National Diabetes Clinical Care Commission Care Act” (S-539) would bring together public and private sector experts in diabetes research and treatment to offer insight in improving clinical care for diabetic patients. (more…)

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FirstNet Discussed on the Hill

“The First Responder Network (FirstNet) model represents a significant step forward from the traditional model for public safety communications”, said Samuel Ginn, Chairman of FirstNet’s Authority Board appearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. “Instead of having thousands of individual, dedicated, stand-alone public safety systems built for law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies, FirstNet will be an integrated nationwide public safety network.”

FirstNet is going to cover all of the states and territories and will need to serve more than 60,000 state, tribal, local, and federal public safety entities. To meet coverage requirements, the network will require tens of thousands of cell sites, a large core network, and secure satellite coverage for the hardest-to-serve areas.

FirstNet’s goal is to design and deploy a cutting-edge wireless broadband network to serve first responders and the public safety community with reliable, interoperable, wireless services, applications, and user devices at the lowest possible fees.

FirstNet will be the only network ever built entirely to meet public safety level specifications for security and reliability. The network will also be the only network to cover an entire nation geographically as opposed to coverage by population centers.

So far, some preliminary activities include:

  • Building an organization and management team
  • Executing an aggressive consultation and outreach strategy
  • Conducting  market research on terrestrial and satellite wireless carriers to identify optimal financial and operational deployment alternatives for the public safety network
  • Conducting business and financial modeling for the various network deployment scenarios
  • Evaluating network engineering technologies and potential network designs
  • Working with standards-setting bodies to ensure public safety critical communications elements are included in the standards
  • Performing network coverage planning and engineering activities
  • Establishing standard operating procedures in consultation with public safety entities
  • Working with network operators to ensure local control and incident response

 

FirstNet has structured their Public Safety Advisory Committee comprised of state, tribal and local organizations. The first face-to-face meeting is expected to take place in April. The Advisory Committee’s leadership will be presenters at conferences and act as advocates conducting direct outreach and soliciting feedback.

 

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IT Moving Ahead in Virginia

The State of Virginia’s Information Technology Agency (VITA) is responsible for operating the IT infrastructure, handling information security programs, developing public safety and related technology, and procuring IT with 100 plus ready to use VITA contracts. VITA has been working with Northrop Grumman to modernize Virginia’s technology infrastructure.

The state used funding from ARRA to plan for a health information exchange. When the Federal administration ruled that states could utilize a 90 percent administrative match through Medicaid to fund infrastructure and eligibility systems, the Virginia General Assembly in 2011 provided state funding to build the Service Oriented Architecture infrastructure necessary for modernization and interoperability.

The eHHR program was established by the state’s Health and Human Resources Secretariat. The eHHR program oversees Virginia’s health IT and the Medicaid Information Technology Architecture (MITA). Ongoing efforts are to have the technology ready needed to modernize and transform how agencies collect, use, and share vital data. The initial focus is on interoperability but later phases are going to enable broader uses for technology.

Last year over 2.3 million applications for Medicaid and SNAP services were processed. The state had an error rate on Medicaid applications that needed to be addressed. A combination of factors meant that the state needed to begin to rethink the basic task of eligibility determination and enrollment. This resulted in an eligibility modernization contract being awarded and a program-related website set up at http://ehhr.virginia.gov.

The eHHR program is up and running with some projects in process. Phases 1 & 2 of the Customer Portal have already successfully been completed. Work is progressing to provide interoperability between the Virginia Department of Health and the state laboratories. eHHR is moving forward with procurement for the Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) system, and care management systems are being initiated to address VDH Birth, Death, and Immunization.

The eHHR Program is designed to manage the state’s HIE called “ConnectVirginia”. So far, the DIRECT Messaging system is in place and “ConnectVirginia” is continuing to work on several issues that arose during the process to onboard and test the first node with Inova Health System.

VITA’s Shared Services monthly meeting is held so that meeting participants can stay informed and collaboratively work to onboard the state agency node to “ConnectVirginia”. Also, VITA’s Monitoring Subcommittee for the Virginia Rx Drug Abuse Reduction Workgroup is examining opportunities to enable interaction between Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program and ConnectVirginia.

As teams address various technology issues, the HIE’s Governing Board is focusing on future governance and sustainability. The sustainability committee continues to meet to identify funding and cost models to ensure HIE’s operations beyond the Federal funding period.

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Telestroke Produces Expert Care

Researchers in studying the effectiveness of telemedicine programs in Oregon found that stroke coverage was pushed into previously uncovered less populated areas and expanded stroke coverage by approximately 40 percent. The results were found in a new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania studying telemedicine programs

Senior study author Brendan Carr, MD, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Surgery & Epidemiology at the School of Medicine, said the study shows that by employing telemedical systems in concert with in-person care, nearly 80 percent of residents had access to expert stroke care within one hour.

The study evaluated all the hospitals in Oregon, finding that 42 percent of the population could reach a stroke center in person within 60 minutes, 76 percent had telemedicial access, 40 percent had access to both, and 20 percent did not have access to stroke care within an hour.

Researchers noted that in-person stroke care was clustered in urban areas, and while telestroke care was also available in urban centers, it was able to reach less populated areas that had low rates of uninsured.

Penn Medicine is using telemedicine to extend stroke care to patients throughout the region through the Penn NeuroRescue program which uses telemedicine systems to bring expert consultations 24/7 to hospitals in distant locales and transfers those persons who need surgery and/or specialized neurointensive critical care to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Penn Medicine Neuroscience Center’s team of experts from neurology, radiology, neurosurgery, vascular surgery, emergency medicine, and nursing provides evidence-based care at the right level and at the right time, through the remote use of telemedicine plus onsite treatment is provided at affiliated primary stroke centers.

 

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Funding for SORH Grants

The State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) Grant Program announcement posted March 15, 2013 is limited to the current 50 SORHs. The funding is expected to be $9,000,000 and will be used to assist States in strengthening rural healthcare delivery systems by maintaining a focal point for rural health within each State.

The SORHs maintain a clearinghouse for collecting and disseminating information on rural healthcare issues and research findings related to rural healthcare and innovative approaches needed to deliver healthcare in rural areas. In addition, SORHs identify Federal, State, and nongovernmental programs regarding rural health and provide technical assistance to public and nonprofit private entities that want to participate.

In nearly all the states, the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) Flex program is based in the SORH offices. The SORHs support quality improvement networks, loan repayment programs, annual rural health conferences, technical assistance for grant writing, and support rural health clinics and emergency services.

The FOA (HRSA-13-162) is due May 13, 2013 with the project period expected to be three years. For more information, go to www.grants.gov or email Keith Mulberry at kmidberry@hrsa.gov.

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