Monday, July 1, 2024

Brief Blog: ONC Issues Grants Program for Innovation and Quality in Healthcare AI

 The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has issued a call for grants applications, issued May 13, letter of intent by May 28, final application due July 12, 2024.  The 13-page memo has the title,

  • The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) Announces Special Emphasis Notice (SEN) Interest in Projects to Develop Innovative Ways to Evaluate and Improve the Quality of Healthcare Data Used by Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools in Healthcare and Accelerate Adoption of Health Information Technology in Behavioral Health.

$2M is available, with single grants eligible for up to $1M.

Find it here:


AI Corner (Chat GPT 4)

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has announced a Special Emphasis Notice (SEN) for projects focused on two main areas of interest:

  1. Developing Innovative Ways to Evaluate and Improve the Quality of Healthcare Data Used by AI Tools in Healthcare
  2. Accelerating the Adoption of Health Information Technology in Behavioral Health


The initiative aims to fund projects under the Leading Edge Acceleration Projects (LEAP) in Health IT funding opportunity for fiscal year 2024. The goal is to address challenges that inhibit the development, use, or advancement of health IT, particularly focusing on AI and behavioral health.

Key Areas of Interest

  1. Develop Innovative Ways to Evaluate and Improve Healthcare Data for AI Tools

    Goal: Develop scalable solutions to evaluate and improve the quality of healthcare data in electronic health records (EHRs) used by AI tools, in alignment with Executive Order 14110 and ONC’s HTI-1 Final Rule. (my notes here.)

    Key Objectives:

    • Develop solutions to evaluate and improve data quality in EHRs.
    • Ensure solutions adhere to the transparency requirements of the HTI-1 final rule.
    • Promote standards-based tools for evaluating and improving AI tools.


    • AI can significantly impact healthcare by optimizing real-time solutions.
    • EHR data is critical for predictive modeling in clinical decision support (CDS).
    • Ensuring data quality in EHRs is crucial for the safe, effective, and trustworthy use of AI tools.
  2. Accelerate Adoption of Health Information Technology in Behavioral Health

    Goal: Support the development of lightweight health IT solutions using open standards to enhance capabilities in behavioral health settings and improve care coordination.

    Key Objectives:

    • Design and develop lightweight applications, such as SMART on FHIR apps.
      • Substitutable Medical Applications and Reusable Technologies on Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources
    • Pilot these applications in behavioral health settings to ensure they are ready for adoption.
    • Facilitate interoperability and patient engagement functionalities in behavioral health IT.


    • Behavioral health providers have lower EHR adoption rates compared to physical health providers.
    • There is a significant gap in health IT capabilities and interoperability in behavioral health settings.
    • The HHS Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration and the President’s Strategy to Address our National Mental Health Crisis highlight the need to bridge these gaps.

Application Details

  • Funding: Up to $1 million per award, with a total of $2 million available.
  • Eligibility: Applicants must clearly state their area of interest and demonstrate relevant expertise.
  • Deadlines:
    • Letter of Intent: May 28, 2024
    • Application Submission: July 12, 2024

Further Guidance

All requirements and application instructions are detailed in the LEAP in Health IT Notice of Funding Opportunity. An informational session will be held on May 21, 2024, providing further details and instructions for potential applicants.

Contact Information

This announcement underscores the ONC's commitment to leveraging AI and health IT advancements to improve healthcare outcomes, particularly in behavioral health, and supports responsible AI development through enhanced data quality and interoperability standards​


Bonus AI Corner:

OK, you've successfully spelled out the abbreviation "SMART on FHIR." 

What the heck does it really mean??

SMART on FHIR (Substitutable Medical Applications and Reusable Technologies on Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is a framework that enables developers to create healthcare applications that can be integrated into any certified Electronic Health Record (EHR) system using a standard Application Programming Interface (API). Here’s what it means in more detail:

SMART on FHIR Components

  1. Substitutable Medical Applications (SMART):

    • SMART is a standard that provides a consistent way to build applications that can work across different healthcare systems.
    • It focuses on making apps "substitutable," meaning they can be easily replaced or updated without significant changes to the underlying system.
  2. Reusable Technologies (SMART):

    • The SMART framework promotes the use of common, reusable technology components, which reduces redundancy and improves the efficiency of app development.
  3. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR):

    • FHIR is a standard developed by Health Level Seven International (HL7) for exchanging healthcare information electronically.
    • It uses modern web technologies (such as RESTful APIs) to facilitate easy, secure, and scalable data exchange.
    • FHIR provides a common language and framework for exchanging health information, making it easier to integrate and access data across different systems.

How SMART on FHIR Works

  • Interoperability: SMART on FHIR apps can access and interact with health data stored in different EHR systems using standardized APIs. This interoperability ensures that the apps can work in a variety of healthcare settings without needing extensive customization.

  • Integration: The framework allows these apps to be embedded within the user interface of an EHR system, providing seamless access to additional functionality directly within the clinician's workflow.

  • Flexibility: Because SMART on FHIR apps use standard APIs, they can be developed independently of any specific EHR vendor. This makes it possible to create a wide range of apps for different purposes, such as clinical decision support, patient engagement, or data analytics.

Example Application

  • A SMART on FHIR app might provide clinicians with a "snapshot" view of a patient’s health data, pulling information from various sources to present a comprehensive and up-to-date overview. This could include lab results, medication lists, and recent clinical notes, all integrated within the clinician’s existing EHR system.

Overall, SMART on FHIR represents a significant step forward in creating an open, flexible, and interoperable ecosystem for healthcare IT, enabling innovation and improving the delivery of healthcare services.