Health IT Training Gets Federal Stimulus Push

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-11-25

The national coordinator for health IT, Dr. David Blumenthal, recently announced that training for jobs in health IT will be coming to a community college near you.

Federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (to the tune of $80 million dollars) has been put aside for grants to help kick-start training in health-related IT. There are currently grants both for community colleges to provide and develop training curriculum and for "technology regional extension centers" that are resources intended to assist in the electronic health records movement--something the industry and Obama administration are trying to move forward.

"As we move toward broad adoption and use of electronic health records in medical practices, we will need more than 50,000 qualified and trained health IT professionals to support our modernized health system," said Blumenthal on the Health IT Buzz blog. "As a physician who has had to incorporate EHRs into my daily practice, I understand how important it is to have well-trained IT support [staff] on hand that understand not only the technology, but its unique applications in patient care."

On the community college grants (aka Community College Consortia to Educate Health Information Technology Professionals), the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Website says:

This program seeks to rapidly create health IT education and training programs at Community Colleges or expand existing programs. Community colleges funded under this initiative will establish intensive, non-degree training programs that can be completed in six months or less.

What kind of technology jobs will the training be for? ZDNet's Dana Blankenhorn puts it in perspective:

These are not programming jobs. Among the "exciting job opportunities" the money hopes to create are:

* Practice workflow and information management redesign specialists;

* Clinician/practitioner consultants;

* Implementation support specialists;

* Implementation managers;

* Technical/software support staff;

* Trainers

Blankenhorn goes on to question how community colleges will develop this training curriculum when the health IT market, especially for EHR systems, is all over the map.

He asks: "Will community colleges align themselves with specific vendors in order to stretch their dollars, thereby giving those products market advantages? Or will the curriculum be more general, based on technical standards and legal requirements?"

Good questions, indeed.

Community colleges have until Jan. 22, 2010 to apply for these grants.

Rocket Fuel