As the adoption of EHRs and other health IT surges, the need for a strong health IT workforce also grows. In response to this need, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced two additional grant programs to support the training and development of the health IT workforce.  These programs are titled Information Technology Professionals in Health Care: Program of Assistance for University-Based Training Programs (University-Based Training Program) and Information Technology Professionals in Health Care: Competency Examination for Individuals (Competency Examination Program).

The new grant programs will award $32 million to establish university-based certificate and advanced degree health IT training programs, and $6 million dollars to develop a health IT competency examination program.  These awards, in addition to the previous announced $80 million in workforce program grants, have been developed to help build a well-trained health IT workforce to support the adoption and meaningful use of health IT. 

For the University-Based Training Program, ONC expects to issue approximately eight to twelve one-time funding awards to support university-based academic programs that rapidly increase the availability of individuals qualified to serve in specific health IT professional roles.  The training supported by this program will emphasize programs that can be completed by the trainee in one year or less.  Applications are due by Jan. 25, 2010, with final awards expected in March 2010. 

For the Competency Examination Program, ONC plans to issue a single one-time 2-year funding award to support the development and initial administration of a set of health IT competency examinations.  The examinations will assess basic competency for individuals trained through short-duration, non-degree health IT programs, and for members of the workforce with relevant experience or other types of training who are seeking to demonstrate their competency in certain health IT workforce roles.  Applications are due by Jan. 25, 2010, and the final award is expected in March 2010.           

“To realize the widespread adoption of EHRs and achieve the vision of a transformed health system that health IT can facilitate, the workforce needs to be expanded and properly trained to facilitate rapid uptake of health IT by health care providers,” said the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. David Blumenthal. He continued:  “The workforce development program is expected to generate highly skilled professionals in key roles to meet 85 percent of the estimated need for expansion of the health IT workforce, who will in turn support health care providers and hospitals implement and maintain electronic health records and use them to strengthen the delivery of care.”

More information about these grant programs is available at http://HealthIT.HHS.gov/