Federal spending levels for health information technology initiatives generally get a boost in the Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed budget for fiscal year 2014.

The operational budget of the Office of the National Coordinator would rise from $61 million in fiscal 2013--the same as in 2012--to $78 million next year. The increase will enable ONC to continue investments in several programs as HITECH funds run out. These include core standards development, health information technology certification, new tools and resources to support electronic health records meaningful use and HIT workforce curricula, work with stakeholders on governance of health information exchange, address new privacy and security policy issues to support a national cybersecurity program, and launch a patient safety plan.

The budget also sets participation goals for the meaningful use program in 2014. “At the end of FY 2012, 156,758 providers had been paid EHR incentives,” according to a 131-page HHS budget brief available here. “HHS aims to increase the number of eligible providers who receive an incentive payment from the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs from 230,000 by the end of FY 2013 to 314,000 by the end of FY 2014.”

The HHS Office for Civil Rights gets a $1 million boost under the proposed budget to $42 million in 2014. That money will help fund seven new positions, bringing the agency’s workforce to 233 FTEs. The privacy and security enforcement unit of OCR received and resolved more than 9,500 complaints of HIPAA violations during FY 2012. The unit increasingly is using civil monetary penalties to support HIPAA enforcement. OCR received almost $4 million in settlements in FY 2012 and anticipates $5.5 million in FY 2013.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is proposed to get $29 million more in 2014, totaling $434 million. The budget for HIT research, however, remains the same at $26 million. “This investment includes $20 million to support approximately 44 research grants that will generate foundational health I.T. research to improve the quality, safety, effectiveness and efficiency of health care in the United States,” according to the budget brief. “In addition, $6 million will support contract activities related to synthesizing and disseminating evidence on meaningful use of health I.T. and developing the tools and resources for various stakeholders to implement best practices.”

AHRQ in 2014 will increase support for I.T. research grants and decrease support for developing implementation tools, a task increasingly being funded by ONC. The 2014 budget includes $100 million for comparative effectiveness research to learn of and accelerate dissemination of best treatment practices.

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