HHS to fund health IT workforce training and development

January 28, 2010

The Department of Health and Human Services will fund two additional grant programs totaling $38 million to support the training and development of the skilled workforce required to support broad adoption and use of health information technology.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will fund two additional grant programs totaling $38 million to support the training and development of the skilled workforce required to support broad adoption and use of health information technology (IT).

Authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the new grant programs build on the previously announced $80 million in workforce program grants. They 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.

For its University-Based Training Program, the HHS anticipates the March issuance of eight to 12 one-time funding awards to support programs at four-year colleges and universities that rapidly increase the availability of individuals qualified to serve in specific health IT professional roles requiring university-level training. The funding will emphasize programs that can be completed by the trainee in one year or less. Awards are for a 39-month project period.

For its Competency Examination Program, the HHS anticipates the March issuance of a single one-time funding award to support the development and initial administration of a set of health IT competency examinations. The examinations will be designed to assess basic competency for two groups of individuals: those trained through short-duration, non-degree health IT programs; and members of the workforce with relevant experience or other types of training who are seeking to demonstrate their competency in health IT workforce roles that are integral to achieving meaningful use of electronic health information. The award is for a two-year project period.

"To realize the widespread adoption of electronic health records (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," David Blumenthal, MD, HHS national coordinator for health IT, said in a prepared statement. "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 EHRs and use them to strengthen the delivery of care."