Article Content

We have not discussed the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently, and much has been happening. As politics and administrations evolve, so do the federal departments that provide funding and oversight to our home care arena.


The biggest change at DHHS was the swearing in of Michael O. Leavitt as the 20th Secretary of the U.S. DHHS on January 26, 2005. As secretary, he leads national efforts to protect the health of all Americans and to provide essential human services to those in need. He manages the largest civilian department in the federal government, with more than 66,000 employees and a budget that accounts for almost $1 of every $4 in the federal budget (U.S. DHHS, 2005a).


Mike Leavitt was elected governor of Utah three times. During his 11 years of service, Utah was recognized six times as one of America's best-managed states. Much of this was attributable to recognition of his proactive innovation on welfare reform and healthcare improvement.


During his tenure as governor, the state's Web site was awarded "Best of Web," offering more than 110 services online (U.S. DHHS, 2005a). As secretary of DHHS, he is committed to using technology to improve the quality of care, reduce mistakes, and manage costs.


In Leavitt's previous public service, he has pursued three goals: to leave things better than he found them; to plant seeds for the next generation; and to give it his all (U.S. DHHS, 2005a). These are his goals as secretary of DHHS.


Under the DHHS is the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA). This branch of DHHS is the access agency for those who are uninsured, under-served, or have special needs.


The goals of HRSA include:


* Improve access to health-care


* Improve health outcomes


* Improve quality of health-care


* Eliminate health disparities


* Improve the public health and healthcare systems


* Enhance the ability of the healthcare system to respond to public health emergencies


* Achieve excellence in management practices (U.S. DHHS, 2005b).



HRSA sees the value of tele-health in obtaining these goals and has formed the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT) to serve as its leader. Established in the 1980s, OAT serves as a catalyst for the wider adoption of advanced technologies in the provision of health-care services and education.


OAT advances telemedicine by leading, coordinating, and promoting the use of telehealth technologies via:


* Fostering partnerships within HRSA and with other federal agencies, states, and private-sector groups


* Administering telehealth grant programs


* Providing technical assistance


* Evaluating the use of tele-health technologies and programs


* Developing telehealth policy initiatives to improve access to quality health services


* Promoting knowledge exchange about "best tele-health practices"



In addition, in 2003 the OAT administered 100 telehealth/tele-medicine grants in 43 states for a total funding of more than $39 million. If you are interested in learning more about these funds, visit the Web site:


In July, the National Association for Home Care (NAHC) announced a joint effort with their affiliated Home Care Technology Association of America, the Center for Telemedicine Law, and more than 230 organizations to seek increased government tele-health funding. One of the efforts of this group will be the push to increase funding to OAT. As federal funding has been cut in this area, so have new technology and grant funding. NAHC recognizes that telehealth technology is a vital part of our healthcare for the future.


Home health agency administrators and staff need to educate their legislators on the benefits of telehealth and encourage them to support this effort.




U.S. DHHS. (2005a). Biography of Mike Leavitt. Available at:[Context Link]


U.S. DHHS. (2005b). About HRSA. Available at:[Context Link]