Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced Friday nearly $1 billion in grant awards for regional extension center, health information exchange and healthcare IT training.
The funding comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will go toward advancing healthcare IT, training workers for healthcare IT jobs and helping to make healthcare IT available to more than 100,000 healthcare providers, according to Sebelius.
At a press conference Friday, federal officials said the grants will help create "tens of thousands of jobs nationwide," ranging from nurses and pharmacy techs to IT technicians and trainers.
Of the more than $750 million in grants announced Friday, $386 million will go to 40 states and qualified state designated entities to facilitate health information exchanges (HIE) at the state level, she said. An additional $375 million will go to an initial 32 non-profit organizations to support the development of regional extension centers (RECs).
Under the Recovery Act, Congress created RECs to help some 100,000 primary care providers and hospitals implement and use healthcare IT. Sebelius said HHS will announce additional HIE and REC awards in the future.
"Health information technology can make our health care system more efficient and improve the quality of care we all receive," Sebelius said. "These grant awards, the first of their kind, will help develop our electronic infrastructure and give doctors and other health care providers the support they need as they adopt this powerful technology."
Solis announced that more than $225 million in Department of Labor grant awards will be used to train 15,000 people in job skills needed to access careers in healthcare, IT and other high growth fields.
"Through existing partnerships with local employers, the recipients of these grants have already identified roughly 10,000 job openings for skilled workers that likely will become available in the next two years in areas like nursing, pharmacy technology and information technology," Solis said.
According to Solis, the grants will fund 55 separate training programs in 30 states to help train people for "secure, well-paid health jobs and meet the growing employment demand for health workers."
Employment services will be available via the DOL's local One Stop Career Centers, and training will be offered at community colleges and other local education providers, she said.