Foster announces $7.5 mil funds for NIU health IT

By on February 25, 2010

Funding will create jobs, improve health care system, he says
Rep. Bill Foster (IL-14) joined NIU President John Peters, NIU project team members and local health care providers on Monday to announce that Northern Illinois University (NIU) will receive a Regional Extension Center award worth $7.5 million over two years from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The funds will help advance the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology (health IT). This funding is made possible by the federal stimulus, which Foster voted for.

“Advancements in health IT significantly improve our health care system by reducing the costs of maintaining and tracking medical records, increasing efficiency and reducing medical errors and duplicative tests,” Foster said. “I am pleased that the stimulus will allow NIU to take a leading role in the use of health IT by our area health care providers, as it will greatly benefit doctors and patients alike.”

The award will allow NIU to create a Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (REC) that will assist doctors to adopt health information technology. NIU estimates that this project will directly create or retain 105 jobs, and will indirectly create or retain an additional 35 jobs. HHS granted a total of $375 million in stimulus funds that will go to an initial 32 nonprofit organizations to support the development of regional extension centers (RECs). The regional extension centers are expected to provide outreach and support services to at least 100,000 primary care providers and hospitals nationwide within two years.

“We are excited to play a role in advancing this important health care initiative,” said NIU President John Peters, who noted that it fits well with other initiatives being spearheaded by the university.

The REC will work primarily with priority care providers—family practitioners, doctors of internal medicine, pediatricians and obstetricians who serve Medicare /Medicaid patients and other underserved populations. Those physicians provide about 80 percent of the nation’s health care, but only about 20 percent of them currently utilize electronic health records systems.