The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $112 million to regional cooperatives to help 5,000 primary care professionals in 12 states advance heart health through electronic health records support, among other methods.

Designed to improve the heart health of approximately 8 million patients nationwide, the EvidenceNOW grants establish seven regional cooperatives that will provide small primary care practices with quality improvement services. These include onsite coaching, consultation from experts in healthcare delivery improvement, sharing of best practices, and EHR support.

Funding for the initiative comes from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund created by the Affordable Care Act. “By targeting smaller practices, we have a unique opportunity to reduce cardiovascular risk factors for hundreds of thousands of patients, and learn what kind of support results in better patient outcomes,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell in a written statement.

The awards are aligned with HHS’ Million Hearts program to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 by getting the blood pressure of 10 million Americans under control through clinical approaches using health information technology and team-based approaches to care. For its part, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT last year issued a challenge to providers to develop EHR tools to improve the treatment of hypertension.

Also See: ONC Launches Challenge for Improving Hypertension

In addition to the EvidenceNOW grants to the seven regional cooperatives, HHS announced that an eighth awardee—Oregon Health Sciences University—will receive a grant to conduct an independent external evaluation of the overall initiative. Specifically, the evaluation team will study the impact of the EvidenceNOW interventions on practice improvement and the delivery of cardiovascular care. The team will also study which practice supports and quality improvement strategies are most effective in improving the implementation of new evidence.

HHs revealed that the $112 million in grants represent one of the largest research investments to date by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Additional information about AHRQ’s EvidenceNOW initiative, including details on each of the grantees and cooperatives, can be found here.

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