Blumenthal issues $80M in ARRA grants to boost health IT workforce

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David Blumenthal, MD, the national coordinator for health IT, today announced plans to make available $80 million in grants to help develop and strengthen the health IT workforce in the community college setting.

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT, Blumenthal said, was tasked by Congress with making up for the estimated shortage of 50,000 health IT professionals. Grants that will be made available include $70 million for the establishment of health IT training programs at community colleges and $10 million to develop educational materials to support these programs.

Community college programs will establish intensive, non-degree training that can be completed in six months or less by individuals with some background in either healthcare or IT fields, according to Blumenthal. Participating colleges will coordinate their efforts through five regional consortia that span the nation.

Charles P. Friedman, deputy national coordinator, said during a press conference that approximately 70 community colleges will be included in those five regions and that ONC is anticipating that the collection of these 70 colleges will produce 10,000 graduates of these programs per year who plan to step into these important roles.”

The funding is to establish the programs and not support the colleges’ programs on an ongoing basis, added Friedman. Programs will be designed to be implemented "as quickly as possible with regions varying in size and population," he said.

Any U.S. non-profit institution of higher learning currently engaged in providing training in health IT that is interested in drafting curriculum or establishing a consortium that includes community colleges may apply for the grants. 

Additional details regarding the grant programs for these and other key resource and training areas will be announced over the next several weeks.