HHS Will Spend $80M to Train HIT Support

HealthLeaders Media Staff, November 24, 2009

Understanding that there is a lack of qualified technical workers, Health and Human Services said today it will make $80 million in grants available to develop the nation's healthcare information technology workforce. Community colleges will get $70 million of the grant money to develop training programs, and the remaining $10 million will be used to develop educational materials to support those programs, HHS said.

Earlier this year, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created a $36.3 billion rebate program designed to broadly and rapidly expand the use of HIT in the nation's healthcare delivery system over the next decade. However, critics have noted a significant lack of qualified technical workers to install, operate, and maintain these complex inter-operative HIT systems. HHS has acknowledged the problem, and said it hopes the training grants will alleviate the shortage.

"Ensuring the adoption of electronic health records, information exchange among healthcare providers and public health authorities, and redesign of workflows within healthcare settings all depend on having a qualified pool of workers," said David Blumenthal, MD,  HHS' national coordinator for health information technology, in a media release. "The expansion of a highly skilled workforce developed through these programs will help healthcare providers and hospitals implement and maintain EHRs and use them to strengthen delivery of care."

The $70 million community college program will establish intensive, non-degree training that can be completed in six months or less by people with some background in either healthcare or IT fields. Participating colleges will coordinate their efforts through five regional consortia across the nation. Graduates will assist healthcare practices during the critical process of deploying IT systems and support these practices once they are operational.

The $10 million curriculum development program will provide educational materials to community colleges so these training programs can be established quickly. Nonprofit institutions of higher learning now providing training in health IT that are interested in drafting curriculum or establishing a consortium may apply for the grants.

Information about grant applications will be available shortly at http://healthIT.HHS.gov/HITECHgrants.

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