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Backbone of Rural HIT Training is Community Colleges

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, February 22, 2012

The Obama Administration this week announced a new "memorandum of understanding" between federal bureaucracies that they claim will help rural healthcare providers build their healthcare information technology workforce, which is expected to grow by 20% by 2016.

In a vaguely worded press release, the White House said "the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding to connect community colleges and technical colleges that support rural communities with the materials and resources they need to support the training of Health Information Technology professionals that work in rural hospitals and clinics."

HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield, RN, said in the media release that: "This memorandum of understanding with our colleagues at the Department of Labor will build on existing collaborations to help ease the challenges of geographic isolation and staff shortages faced by rural communities and help move us toward our mutual goal of Health IT workforce development."

Federal Health Resources and Services Administration officials did not return calls by deadline Wednesday so details remain sketchy.  

Randy Smith, president of the Rural Community College Alliance, says he's not really clear on the specifics of the MOU, and only learned of it when HealthLeaders Media called. Still, he's happy the federal government is acknowledging the challenges that rural healthcare providers and educators face.

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