HHS Injects $144M Into Education, Research - InformationWeek
Healthcare // Electronic Health Records
05:32 PM

HHS Injects $144M Into Education, Research

Funds will boost programs to develop healthcare IT skills expected to be in short supply.

The department of Health and Human Services will award $144 million to universities, community colleges and major research centers to develop the skills necessary to implement e-health records (EHRs) and other technologies required for meaningful use of health IT.

The funds are aimed at tackling one of the most critical concerns with healthcare reform: that as health IT is transformed, there will be a shortage of talent needed to implement and maintain the new systems.

"Academia and the research community will support health providers by delivering more than 50,000 new health IT professionals to the workforce and addressing current and future barriers to achieving meaningful use of health IT," HHS said in a statement.

With that in mind, 16 universities and junior colleges will receive $84 million to support training and development of health IT professionals.

Additionally, funding to overcome barriers to adoption and meaningful use of health IT will be awarded to four advanced research institutions. Each of these institutions will get $15 million as part of the department's Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects (SHARP), which are focused research in areas where breakthrough advances are needed. SHARP recipients include:

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which will develop security and risk mitigation policies and the technologies necessary to build and preserve the public trust as health IT systems gain widespread use.

  • University of Texas Health Science Center, which will develop tools to integrate, enhance and support clinicians' reasoning and decision-making.

  • Harvard, which will develop new architectures that leverage existing technology and focus on scalability and nimbleness as data capture, storage and analysis needs increase.

  • The Mayo Clinic, which will develop strategies to make use of data stored in e-health records to improve the overall quality of healthcare, while maintaining data privacy and security.

    Training new health IT professionals and breaking down barriers to the adoption of health IT are both critical to the national effort to use IT to realize better patient care, David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health IT said in a statement. Institutions receiving awards "will develop necessary roadmaps to help healthcare providers and hospitals implement and effectively use electronic health records," he said.

    The funds are part of $2 billion allocated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help health providers achieve meaningful use of health IT as well as develop a technology infrastructure that meets the goal of every citizen having an EHR by 2014.

    Other recipients of these funds include:

  • The Community College Consortia Program, receiving $36 million to help 70 community colleges create non-degree training programs that can be completed in six months or less. An additional $34 million is available for second year funding of these programs after successful completion of a mid-project evaluation.

  • The Curriculum Development Center, getting $10 million to develop educational materials to be used by the members of the Community College Consortia program and made available to institutions of higher education across the country.

  • University-based training programs will receive $32 million for training professionals in highly specialized health IT roles.

  • The Competency Examination Program will receive $6 million to support the development and initial administration of a set of health IT competency examinations.

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