New MeHI Grants Seek to Build ‘Connected Communities’ for Delivering Health Care

MeHIMeHI, the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech, has launched a new grant program to strengthen the collaborative technology-based connections between healthcare settings in regions across the Commonwealth. The Connected Communities Implementation Grant Program solicits proposals from groups working together to use health information technology to tackle challenges to delivering coordinated healthcare within their community. The program is designed to increase the electronic exchange of health information and strengthen associated workflows in order to help local providers better address the transitions of care and care management needs within their communities, ultimately resulting in better coordination of patient care, improved patient outcomes, and a reduction in healthcare costs.

Collaboration among healthcare partners in a geographic community is critical, in particular for specialties such as behavioral health and long-term and post-acute care, where patients may receive care from a mix of providers and agencies in a region. The Connected Communities Implementation Grant Program calls for participation by one or more of these specialty providers in project proposals. The program encourages proposals which strengthen local partnerships across a diversity of settings, such as linking school or criminal justice environments with clinical and behavioral health providers.

“The Connected Communities Grant Program provides us with an opportunity to support impactful health IT programs driven by the priorities in individual communities,” stated Laurance Stuntz, Director of MeHI. “Through this approach, our hope is to receive proposals that identify region-specific roadblocks to sharing information, engage a broad cross-section of healthcare stakeholders, and address the unique needs of patients in that community through the use of technology.”

“The Connected Communities program is a unique opportunity to encourage innovative ideas and partnerships for care coordination,” said Senator James T. Welch. “I look forward to watching the progress as the grant process unfolds and I am eager to learn about the exciting projects that the grantees will roll out.”

“Finding ways to improve information sharing and real-time data capabilities, while enhancing providers’ ability to treat patients at the community level, will go a long way toward helping the Commonwealth meet its health care cost reduction goals,” said David Seltz, Executive Director of the Health Policy Commission. “We look forward to continuing our work with MeHI and other stakeholders to build a stronger health care system.”

MeHI seeks project proposals that:

  • Strengthen connections among a diversity of healthcare settings in a defined geographic region;
  • Improve provider access to clinically relevant information, such as discharge plans and test results as patients transition between settings of care; and
  • Support improved outcomes and efficiency in treatment, including measureable reductions in hospital readmissions, medical errors, and duplicative tests, through improved cross-setting care management.

Organizations eligible to lead potential projects include those involved in Treatment, Payment, and healthcare Operations (TPO), including healthcare practices, health plans, and hospitals. Successful lead organizations will engage civic, municipal, and non-profit organizations in their proposal.

Awards will be made in a phased process. MeHI will initially award successful grantees a planning payment of up to $25,000, which participants will use to develop key project requirements, including a detailed action plan, a diagram illustrating the information pathways to be created in a region, a ‘Use Case’ which outlines the objectives and proposed measurements for the project, and a detailed cost budget. If the initial plan is approved, grantees will then be eligible for incentive payments that will be awarded over a two-year period. Each project will move through four milestones that progress through advanced stages of inter-organizational care coordination. While individual incentive payments will vary, MeHI anticipates milestone payments to range from $50,000 to $125,000 per milestone, up to a maximum grant of $500,000. MeHI anticipates awarding grants to support between five to eight projects in this funding round.

This new program was informed by interviews among a diverse set of community stakeholders and roundtable sessions hosted and organized in 15 regions across the Commonwealth. The Connected Communities grants are funded via key investments made by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through Chapter 224, the 2012 healthcare cost containment law. Under Chapter 224, MeHI was charged with advancing the dissemination of health information technology across the Commonwealth and supporting the development of strong community-based approaches to healthcare information sharing.

The 2014 MeHI Provider and Consumer Health IT Research Study of Massachusetts health care providers revealed that the adoption of health IT was strong among primary care and specialty care providers, but lagged in specialties such as behavioral health and long-term and post-acute care. In addition, only 26 percent of providers said they were participating in a health information exchange.

About the Massachusetts eHealth Institute:

MeHI, or the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, is the state’s entity for healthcare innovation, technology, and competitiveness and is responsible for advancing the dissemination of health information technology throughout Massachusetts, including the deployment of electronic health records systems in healthcare provider settings and connecting them through the Mass HIway, the statewide health information exchange. For more information, please visit and follow @MassEHealth.