The fiscal 2015 federal appropriations budget being finalized by Congress contains funds for numerous health information technology initiatives under the Department Veterans Affairs, Office of the National Coordinator for HIT and for rural health, among other entities.

The Christmas time bill is not particularly kind to ONC, granting a budget of $60, 367,000, the same as in FY 2014. ONC had asked for $75 million in FY 2015, but the agency, like others, generally requests more than it knows it will get.

In FY 2015, the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Grant program is slated to get $14,942,000 for quality improvement projects, adoption of telehealth services and coordinating care between rural providers and VA’s VistA EHR, among other projects.

The budget bill grants VA $3,903, 344,000 in IT funds, of which $1,039,000,000 goes for pay and associated costs, $2,316, 009,000 for operations and maintenance, and $548,335,000 for IT development, modernization and enhancement. An unspecified amount of these funds is authorized to be used to develop a standard data reference terminology model.

VA can move up to $123 million in funds allocated for “Medical Services” and “Medical Support and Compliance” to support VistA enhancements and EHR interoperability.

VA cannot spend more than 25 percent of funds until Congress receives a comprehensive update on the status of its various initiatives, particularly interoperability with DoD, which also has similar constraints.

The bill also authorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to build a cloud-based platform to collect and disseminate public health data to reduce reporting burdens for state public health departments.

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