Preparing Professionals for a Nationwide Health Care Transformation - HITECH Update

A Message from Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology:

I know that health care providers are concerned about implementing new health information technology and finding professionals who can operate and maintain such systems. I know many clinicians are unsure how they will develop or strengthen their skill set to incorporate using health IT efficiently and effectively without jeopardizing their communication with patients during a clinical visit. It seems like a daunting transformation to clinicians themselves and, indeed, for our health care system overall. The HITECH Act recognized that the success of this health IT journey depends on people: people who are passionate about improving patient care, and who are supported in making those improvements.

To this end, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $84 million to 16 institutions of higher education to fund the Health IT Workforce Development Program, which focuses on several key resources required to rapidly expand the availability of health IT professionals who will support broad adoption and use of health IT in the provider community. Those resources include:

  • A community college training program to create a workforce that can facilitate the implementation and support of an electronic health care system
  • Quality educational materials that institutions of higher education can use to construct core instructional programs
  • A competency examination program to evaluate trainee knowledge and skills acquired through non-degree training programs
  • Additional university programs to support certificate and advanced degree training

The Workforce Development Program is one of the best examples of the depth of thought behind the HITECH Act. We could spend many billions of dollars developing, incentivizing, and implementing health IT solutions, but without an effectively trained workforce, our efforts would fall short of their ultimate goal of improving patient care. These efforts, designed in collaboration with the National Science Foundation, Department of Education, and the Department of Labor, are estimated to reduce the shortfall of qualified health IT professionals by 85 percent.

I congratulate the Workforce Development Program awardees and look forward to working with them on this important initiative. Those who take advantage of professional training in health IT provided through award recipients will find opportunities for interesting, challenging, and important work. Not only do these opportunities represent new jobs, they represent promising careers in a growing sector of our economy.

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