As most Americans were gearing up for turkey, family gatherings and football last week, HHS announced its $80 million grant program to strengthen and grow America’s HIT workforce.
I, for one, am excited to see this forward-thinking initiative from our government. There is speculation that vast adoption of new technology without an expert clinical IT workforce to back it up could result in a disaster. In the recent blog post from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), Dr. David Blumenthal writes:
“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 on hand that understand not only the technology, but its unique applications in patient care. I’ve often characterized information as the “lifeblood” of modern medicine, and health IT as the “circulatory system.” Well, these are the people who will make sure the ‘lifeblood’ keeps flowing through the system. This is why workforce initiatives are among the first programs to be formally unveiled.”
With an anticipated major expansion in the e-prescribing and electronic health record (EHR) industry in 2010, this grant has the potential to insure that we have the skilled workforce to support the growth in healthcare information technology (HIT) that is on the brink of exploding.
Dividing the grant money between community college programs and educational materials, this ARRA backed initiative is the first of many to build the infrastructure and workforce needed to keep up with our nation’s technology adoption, while providing an estimated 50,000 additional jobs to boost the economy.
I hope that programs such as this one will continue to alleviate some of the hesitancy and apprehension physicians and other clinicians are feeling towards adopting an e-prescribing or any other clinical online system. Grants like this are tangible, living proof that “the way we play the game” is changing, and it is changing quickly.
Stay tuned to our blog for updates.
Tom Sullivan, MD