As part of the economic stimulus funds from 2009, the U.S. Health and Human Services is upping the ante on electronic health records (EHR) and the workers who will be needed to manage the technology and administration within healthcare organizations like hospitals, clinics and medical centers.
In news announced on Feb 12, nearly a billion dollars has been released towards the EHR program, with $225 million of that funding going toward the training of individuals for jobs in EHR. From a Reuters article on the announced plans:
"[Labor Secretary] Solis announced more than $225 million in Department of Labor grant awards that will be used to train 15,000 people in job skills needed to support careers in healthcare, information technology and other high growth fields.The White House said grant recipients had identified about 10,000 openings for skilled workers likely to become available within the next two years."
A good chunk of the cash is heading to states to create health information exchanges, and another portion is going to regional extenstion centers intended to help support primary care providers in transitioning to EHR. From Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health IT on HealthData Management:
"Today we announce the first cooperative agreement awards authorized by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. It marks a major milestone in our journey towards nationwide adoption and meaningful use of health information technology (health IT). One set of awards provides $386 million to 40 States and qualified State-Designated Entities to rapidly build capacity for exchanging health information across the health care system both within and between states through the State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program. The other awards provide $375 million to create 32 Regional Extension Centers (RECs) that will support the efforts of health professionals, starting with priority primary care providers, to become meaningful users of electronic health records (EHRs). Additional awards will be made in both programs over the coming weeks. Together, these programs will help modernize the use of health information, improving the quality and efficiency of care for all Americans."
The RECs will help provide on-site technical assistance to healthcare providers, said Blumenthal. Of real concern to the goverment and to the public alike is the security of private medical records, something that is expected to happen at the REC level.
On privacy, the Wall Street Journal wrote:
""Patient privacy is the top priority," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. The agency is about to appoint a chief privacy officer, and the government has strengthen the penalties for negligent security breaches for companies so they reach up to $1 million."