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More health IT help coming for primary care

The Dept. of Health and Human Services announced April 6 that it was awarding another $267 million to help physicians and hospitals accelerate their adoption of health information technology. The money is going to 28 nonprofit organizations that will run health IT regional extension centers, which are designed to provide outreach and technical support services largely to primary care practices and facilities. Earlier this year, HHS announced that more than $375 million had been awarded to 32 nonprofits to establish RECs. The centers provide a local resource for on-site technical assistance, guidance and information on health IT best practices. Officials overseeing the program have said they should be helpful particularly to smaller physician offices that may not have the resources available to larger practices or hospitals. All 60 REC awardees also have an opportunity to apply for a two-year extension supplemental award, which would ensure that health IT assistance services ar ...

Interpreter services offered at more than half of physician practices

Physician practices are making some strides in reducing the cultural and linguistic barriers facing patients whose English proficiency is limited, but those efforts are "modest and uneven," according to a report released in February. Of practices that have non-English speaking patients, 55.8% provide interpreter services, said the report, based on a survey of 4,700 physicians nationwide and issued by the nonprofit Center for Studying Health System Change ( Forty percent of practices provide patient-education materials in languages other than English, and four in 10 doctors have received cultural competency training aimed at helping them better serve minority populations. Less than a quarter of physicians receive reports about the demographic characteristics of their patients, and 7% routinely access electronic information about their patients' preferred language. More than 20 million patients speak limited English, according to a 2006 American Medic ...

Per capita spending for immigrant health care far less than for U.S. citizens

Annual health spending on noncitizen immigrants is about half the spending on native U.S. citizens, largely because many noncitizens lack jobs with health insurance and are ineligible for most public coverage, according to "Trends in Health Care Spending for Immigrants in the United States," published in the March Health Affairs. Average per-person health care spending for noncitizens was $1,904 in 2006, compared with $3,723 for citizens, according to the study. Public spending on noncitizens also was relatively low. Between 1999 and 2006, it averaged $780 annually for noncitizens and $1,200 for U.S. natives, the article concluded. "There's a reluctance to use a lot of services on the part of noncitizens," said Eric Rodriguez, a vice president at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group. Rodriguez said the article's numbers are fairly consistent with estimates in other studies. Although immigrants do not receive disproportionate amounts of he ...