On February 12th, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced a total of nearly $1 billion in Recovery Act awards to first, assist health care providers in the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology (HIT); and second, train the future healthcare and HIT workforce. The awards will help states increase the accessibility of HIT resources for over 100,000 hospitals and primary care physicians by 2014 and train thousands to meet the growing demand for careers in health care and information technology.

The over $750 million in HHS grant awards are part of the federal Regional Extension Center and Health Information Exchange initiatives to build state and regional capacity to enable widespread meaningful use of health IT. $386 million will go to 40 states and qualified State Designated Entities (SDEs) to build the health information exchange (HIE). $375 million will support the initial 32 non-profit organizations to develop regional extension centers (RECs), which will provide outreach and HIT support services to at least 100,000 primary care providers and hospitals within two years.

In addition, more than $225 million will be used to train 15,000 people to expand the healthcare and HIT workforce. The grants will fund 55 separate training programs in 30 states, with training offered at community colleges and local education providers. The RECs are also expected to expand employment opportunities; it is estimated that they will create over 3,000 positions for technology workers nationwide. This significant federal investment in HIT programs supports the new national HIT infrastructure that will contribute to more efficient, safer, and higher quality healthcare delivery.

For a list of award recipients, please see the HHS Press Office News Release.