HHS offers $38M for healthcare IT workforce training

By Bernie Monegain
06:43 AM

The government has launched two grant programs totaling $38 million for the training and development of a skilled workforce to support adoption and use of healthcare information technology.

The funding, announced Wednesday, adds to $80 million announced earlier this year.

The programs, unveiled by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, are

  • Information Technology Professionals in Health Care: Program of Assistance for University-Based Training Programs (University-Based Training Program); and
  • Information Technology Professionals in Health Care: Competency Examination for Individuals (Competency Examination Program).

Authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the grants are designed to help strengthen and support the health IT workforce.

The government will award $32 million to establish university-based certificate and advanced degree health IT training programs and $6 million dollars to develop a health IT competency examination program.

According to ONC Chief David Blumenthal, MD, the awards – together with the previous $80 million in workforce program grants (for Community College Consortia on Nov. 24 and Curriculum Development Centers on Dec. 15) – recognize the critical importance of developing a well-trained health IT workforce to support the adoption and meaningful use of health IT.

For the University-Based Training Program, the ONC anticipates issuing eight to 12 one-time funding awards to support academic programs that rapidly increase the availability of individuals qualified to serve in specific health IT professional roles requiring university-level training. The training will emphasize programs that can be completed by the trainee in one year or less.

Awards are for a 39-month project period. Four-year colleges and universities are eligible to apply. Applications are due by Jan. 25, 2010, with final awards expected in March 2010.

For the Competency Examination Program, the ONC anticipates issuing a single, one-time funding award to support the development and initial administration of a set of health IT competency examinations.

The examinations will assess basic competency for individuals trained through short-duration, non-degree health IT programs and for members of the workforce with relevant experience or other types of training who are seeking to demonstrate their competency in certain health IT workforce roles integral to achieving meaningful use of electronic health information.

The award is for a two-year project period. Applications are due by Jan. 25, 2010, and the final award is expected in March 2010.

"To realize the widespread adoption of EHRs and achieve the vision of a transformed health system that health IT can facilitate, the workforce needs to be expanded and properly trained to facilitate rapid uptake of health IT by healthcare providers," said Blumenthal.  "The workforce development program is expected to generate highly skilled professionals in key roles to meet 85 percent of the estimated need for expansion of the health IT workforce, who will in turn support healthcare providers and hospitals implement and maintain electronic health records and use them to strengthen the delivery of care."

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