White House Earmarks Nearly $1B for Healthcare IT, Future Jobs

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , February 12, 2010

The White House today announced nearly $1 billion in Recovery Act funds designed to help healthcare providers advance health information technology (IT) and train thousands of workers for future healthcare jobs.

The awards will help make health IT available to more than 100,000 hospitals and primary care physicians by 2014 and train thousands of people for careers in healthcare an information technology, according to a joint statement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

The funds include $750 million in grant awards that Sebelius said are part of a federal initiative to build capacity to enable widespread use of health IT. She said the assistance would facilitate healthcare providers' efforts to adopt and use electronic health records in a meaningful way to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare.

The $750 million includes:

  • $386 million is slated for 40 states and qualified state designated entities to facilitate health information exchange at the state level.

  • $375 million is for 32 nonprofit organizations to support the development of regional extension centers that officials say will aid health professionals as they implement and use health IT. Additional awards will be announced in the future.

  • Regional extension centers are expected to provide outreach and support services to at least 100,000 primary care providers and hospitals within two years.

"Health information technology can make our healthcare system more efficient and improve the quality of care we all receive," Sebelius said in a statement. "These grant awards, the first of their kind, will help develop our electronic infrastructure and give doctors and other healthcare providers the support they need as they adopt this powerful technology."

Labor Secretary Solis said that $225 million in Department of Labor grant awards will be used to train 15,000 people in job skills needed to access careers in healthcare, IT, and other high-growth fields. Through existing partnerships with local employers, the recipients of the grants have identified 100,000 job openings for skilled workers that likely will become available in the next two years in areas like nursing, pharmacy technology, and information technology.

The grants will fund 55 separate training programs in 30 states to help train people for health jobs.

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.

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