HHS provides $144M for health IT training and research

The Health and Human Services Department is handing out $144 million to set up health IT workforce training programs and health IT research projects.

The Health and Human Services Department is distributing $144 million to advance health information technology implementations with training, recruiting and research.

Sixteen universities and junior colleges will receive awards totaling $84 million in economic stimulus law funding to train and recruit 50,000 new health IT professionals, according to a news release issued April 2.

In addition, $60 million in stimulus money will go to four research centers and universities under the Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects program. They will receive $15 million each.

The participating advanced research centers are Harvard University for studying health IT architectures and scalability, the Mayo Clinic for studying the secondary uses of patients’ electronic health data, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for studying risk mitigation and security of health IT, and the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston for studying health IT to support clinical decision making.

“Training a cadre of new health IT professionals and breaking down barriers to the adoption of meaningful use of health IT are both critical to the national effort to use information technology to realize better patient care,” Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health IT, said.

The training programs include $36 million for the Community College Consortia Program, which will assist five recipients in establishing a consortium in each designated region, covering 70 community colleges in all.

Each college will create non-degree training programs that can be completed in six months or less by persons with appropriate prior education and/or experience. HHS said. An additional $34 million is available for a second round of funding after the completion of an evaluation.

The five recipients are Bellevue College in Bellevue, Wash., $3.4 million; Cuyahoga Community College District in Cleveland, Ohio, $7.5 million; Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento, Calif., $5.4 million; Pitt Community College in Winterville, N.C., $10.9 million; and Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Va., $8.5 million.

Under HHS University-Based Training Programs, $32 million is being distributed to nine schools. The trainees will complete intensive courses of study in 12 months or less and receive a university-issued certificate of advanced training. Some trainees will receive grants for master’s degrees.

Universities receiving awards under the training program are Columbia University, $3.8 million; University of Colorado-Denver, $2.6 million; Duke University, $2.2 million; George Washington University, $4.6 million; Indiana University, $1.4 million; Johns Hopkins University, $3.8 million; University of Minnesota, $5.1 million; Oregon Health and Science Center, $3.1 million, and Texas State University-San Marcos, $5.4 million.

Related to training program, $10 million is being awarded to curriculum development centers to develop educational materials for key health IT topics. The materials will be made available to the community college consortia and other institutions of higher education across the country.

The awardees of the curriculum development monies, receiving $1.8 million each, are the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Columbia University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University and Oregon Health and Science University.

The Competency Examination Program, funded at $6 million, is to develop and administer an initial set of health IT competency exams. The goal is to create an objective measure to assess basic competency in short-term non-degree health IT programs. The funding will go to Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va.

The $144 million in stimulus law funding is part of the $19 billion for health IT to be distributed by HHS under the economic stimulus law. The bulk of the money, about $17 billion, will pay doctors and hospitals a bonus for installing and "meaningfully" using electronic health record systems.