Keeping a SHARP Focus on Innovation

Dec. 19, 2009

A Message from Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology

Today the Obama administration announced the availability of $60 million in Recovery Act funds to support the development of the Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects (SHARP) program. SHARP awards will fund research focused on identifying technology solutions to address well-documented problems impeding broad adoption of health information technology (health IT). By helping to overcome key challenges, the research will also accelerate progress towards achieving nationwide meaningful use of health IT.

As we continue this unprecedented effort towards meaningful use and seamless, secure information exchange, we also must acknowledge that there remains a gap between the promise of health IT and the realization of its full benefits. To achieve the goal of a transformed health care delivery system, it’s critical that we close this gap by enabling a robust research infrastructure that can focus on areas where “breakthrough” advances are needed to help clear obstacles to adoption. Under the SHARP program, four awardees will receive funding to develop multidisciplinary research projects that will identify such breakthrough solutions.

SHARP program awardees will create research programs that draw from many areas of expertise.  They will focus on issues of central interest to all health IT stakeholders, fostering considerable discussion and debate.  If for example, SHARP research helped identify new methods to create tools that will, through their incorporation into deployed technology, enhance data security, then public trust in the electronic maintenance and exchange of health information would be reinforced and strengthened – which would in turn help encourage broader adoption.

Areas requiring this innovative research approach that will be tackled by the SHARP awardees include the security of health IT, patient-centered cognitive support, application and network platform architectures, and the secondary use of EHR data as a way of measuring and improving quality of care.

Another important aspect of the SHARP program is that the research projects will bring together key stakeholders – researchers, patient groups, health care providers, and others – to work with one another to transform health IT research into applications. This collaborative approach allows us to consider the many voices of health IT stakeholders, and work together towards common goals. With our eyes on the vision of patient-centered, quality health care we can focus research on innovative, pragmatic, and realistic solutions which can then be implemented across the nation.

I truly look forward to seeing the innovative research that emerges from this program. I know that this research will provide critical insights that will bring us closer every day to a better, more efficient health care delivery system, enabled by health IT and empowered by the seamless and secure exchange of electronic health information.

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