House committee passes bill to increase health IT research, training

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A House committee has passed a bill (H.R. 1467) that would authorize new efforts in health IT research, training and education. This would be done by authorizing the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award $99.6 million in grants to projects coordinated to advance healthcare informatics and work undertaken by multidisciplinary health and medical informatics research centers involved in both research and training.

The bill would also enable the NSF to create a grant program aimed at improving healthcare informatics programs at the undergraduate, masters and certificate levels. It would also give NSF the authority to support improved healthcare informatics education and technical training through a nationwide junior college program, said Linda L. Kloss, MA, RHIA, chief executive officer, American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

AHIMA has come out as a big supporter of the legislation which was sponsored by Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) and approved by the House Committee on Science and Technology.

"The use of electronic health systems is gaining momentum, and people agree that it will improve the delivery of care in the doctor's office, save lives by reducing medical errors and make the healthcare industry more efficient by eliminating unnecessary or repeated procedures," said Wu. "But while everyone is talking about adopting these systems, no one is addressing the workforce concerns. We need curriculum to support an emerging specialty in healthcare informatics and programs to train current doctors and nurses. A workforce capable of innovating, implementing, and using electronic health systems will be critical to the successful transition. Education is key to digitizing the healthcare industry."
Wu's legislation is expected to be considered in the full U.S. House of Representatives in June.

"The American Health Information Management Association encourages the full House to follow the wisdom of its Committee on Science and Technology while at the same time providing encouragement to the U.S. Senate for Congress to be unrelenting in its support for the future of healthcare information technology as well as the future strength of American healthcare," added Kloss.