The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has announced two new funding opportunities totaling $1.5 million to advance common standards that have the potential for solving current challenges to interoperability.

A new cooperative agreement program called the High Impact Pilots (HIP) is meant to “catalyze the implementation of standards and technology” to improve the sharing of health information among health care stakeholders while improving care delivery, as well as demonstrating how health IT can positively impact patient experience.

“We have made significant progress in the flow of health information, but we still have work to do to ensure different systems speak the same language,” said National Coordinator for HIT Karen DeSalvo, MD. “Today’s announcement will advance the use of common, interoperable standards, particularly for key pieces of data like medications and lab results.”

Total funding available for the one-year HIP awards is $1.25 million, with between three and seven awards expected as part of the competition. Specifically, awardees must use the best available standards, implementation guides, and emerging alternatives identified in ONC’s 2016 Interoperability Standards Advisory “so that more industry-wide implementation experience can be gained with listed standards.” In addition to the HIP awards, ONC is seeking submissions for another program called the Standards Exploration Awards (SEA). The total funding available for SEA awards is $250,000, with between three and five awards expected.

Applicants for the HIP program have until July 8, 2016 to make their submissions, but must first select a “priority category” to focus on and then choose a minimum of three “impact dimensions” that their project will address.

The priority categories include: Comprehensive Medication Management; Laboratory Data Exchange; Care Coordination; and a Self-Identified category that allows the applicant to identify another area they believe the advancement of interoperable standards could be demonstrated.

The “impact dimensions” applicants must choose from are: Practice Efficiency; Clinical Quality; Cost Efficiency; Patient Experience; Safety; Privacy and Security; and Interoperable Exchange.

Applicants must be private nonprofit institution/organizations, public nonprofit institution/organizations, and private or for profit organizations with “proven knowledge of and familiarity addressing interoperability through implementation of health information technology,” according to the announcement.

Applicants for the SEA program must first select a priority category to focus on and then choose a specific impact dimension that their project will address. SEA awardees must choose a minimum of one impact dimension, while HIP applicants must select a minimum of three impact dimensions.

SEA awardees must also leverage the standards, implementation guides, and emerging alternatives identified in ONC’s 2016 Interoperability Standards Advisory. The deadline for submission is July 8.

According to ONC, the lessons learned and evidence generated by the HIP and SEA cooperative agreements will “help advance industry understanding of health IT’s potential” and “serve as building blocks for future efforts and fuel innovative approaches to implementing standards and technology nationwide.” The agency made the announcement today at the annual Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C.

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