Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HHS Announces Plans to Make $80 Million Available to Support Health IT Workforce

Grants Will Support Community College Training Programs, Curriculum Development, Additional Programs to be Announced in Coming Weeks

Dr. David Blumenthal, HHS' National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, today announced plans to make available $80 million in grants to help develop and strengthen the health information technology workforce. The grants that will be made available include $70 million for community college training programs and $10 million to develop educational materials to support these programs. Both programs will support the immediate need for skilled health information technology (health IT) professionals who will enable the broad adoption and use of health IT throughout the United States.

Authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the grants are the first in a series of programs to help strengthen and support the health IT workforce. Additional details regarding the grant programs for these and other key resource and training areas will be
announced over the next several weeks.

"Ensuring the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), information exchange among health care providers and public health authorities, and redesign of workflows within health care settings all depend on having a qualified pool of workers," Dr. Blumenthal said. "The expansion of a highly skilled workforce developed through these programs will help health care providers and hospitals implement and maintain EHRs and use them to strengthen delivery of care."

The Community College program will establish intensive, non-degree training that can be completed in six months or less by individuals with some background in either health care or IT fields. Participating colleges will coordinate their efforts through five regional consortia that span the nation. Graduates of this training will fill a variety of roles that both assist health care practices during the critical process of deploying IT systems and support these practices on an ongoing basis.

The curriculum development program will make high quality educational materials available to the community colleges so these training programs can be established quickly to meet these workforce needs.

Any U.S. non-profit institution of higher learning currently engaged in providing training in health IT that is interested in drafting curriculum or establishing a consortium that includes community colleges may apply for the grants. Information about grant applications will be
available shortly at http://healthIT.HHS.gov/HITECHgrants.

"Critical to achieving the goal of the Heath Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and supporting meaningful use of health IT is the availability of a skilled workforce that understands the unique technology and management needs within a clinical setting," added Dr. Blumenthal. "These newly funded programs are designed to equip the most qualified and advanced IT workforce in the world with the tools they need to modernize our health system."

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