Funding Opportunities for Information Technology
Funding the implementation of IT to support daily public health operations has been a challenge for many jurisdictions. We have provided information on how to assess your total cost of ownership and how to choose an appropriate business model to assist you in gathering the information and materials you will need to successfully obtain funding. We suggest that you view your project from a variety of viewpoints as you investigate slightly less traditional funding sources. The point of the following discussion is to highlight the myriad of opportunities that exist for funding IT in public health (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/nichsr/hsrsites.html). It is unlikely that any one of these sources will provide 100% of the funding you require. You should be open to spreading costs over multiple fiscal or funding years, separating capital from operating costs, and implementing incrementally as you seek to put together a funding scenario for your jurisdiction.
Reduction of Personnel
Some jurisdictions may find funds available that will allow them to purchase IT resources to reduce the jurisdiction staffing level. In some cases, these programs will provide funding for IT investment equal to a portion of the salaries of the staff "eliminated" for 1-2 years. Contact your jurisdictionís personnel office to see if a similar program exists.
Improvement of Health Care Quality
Several federal and numerous private foundations fund efforts aimed at improving the quality of care to various populations. Depending on the current status of care quality within your jurisdiction, consider designing a research project that would include care quality indicators as the outcome of the IT investment. AHRQ Funding Opportunities is a good place to start to search for these opportunities.
Improvement of Network Connectivity
State, regional, and national efforts exist to increase the connectivity across our country. For example, the Department of Commerce's Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) (http://www.ntia.doc.gov/TOP/grants/) promotes the widespread availability and use of digital network technologies in the public and non-profit sectors. These programs are aimed primarily at network expansion, so they may be more suited where several jurisdictions are interested in working together. Similar network connectivity funds are available in several states and may be available for local public health organizations.
Regional eHealth Initiatives
The Department of Health and Human Services has previously funded demonstration grants at regional, state, and local levels to test the feasibility of information exchange and other innovative IT projects. The acceptance of electronic lab results, electronic ordering of pharmaceuticals, or electronic transmission of health records may qualify your jurisdiction for participation in similar efforts. Another way to think of regional initiatives is as implementation across multiple jurisdictions. "Volume pricing" for hardware or licenses may be available. Contracting for implementation support is frequently cheaper for a large effort than the sum of several small efforts because training materials, customization, and system administration efforts can be shared.
The Pew Charitable Trust (http://www.pewtrusts.com/), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (http://rwjf.org/index.jsp), Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (http://www.kff.org/), and others (http://fdncenter.org/) have funded public health programs in the past. It is always worthwhile to investigate current grant opportunities from these and other charitable organizations.
Another source suggested by some of our participants is the large healthcare providers in your area. Some have outreach or foundation activities that may support the eventual implementation of "eHealth." Similar to the development of the term "eCommerce", as the latest buzzword for the business world, eHealth is already the preferred term for healthcare services available through the Internet.
CDC funding for activities, through cooperative agreements and grants, is a traditional avenue for public health jurisdictions. As with all federal sources, the availability of funding is dependent on many external factors, including Congressional authorization. The next section discusses CDC requirements for PHIN compatability.
McLendon, K. (2000). E-commerce and HIM: Ready or not, here it comes. Journal of the American Health Informatics Management Association, 71(1), 22-23.
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