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Federal health IT grants bear fruit, report finds

Mar. 11, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
(SORAPONG CHAIPANYA / Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Health and Human Services Department in 2010 awarded $116 million in grants to rapidly train thousands of health information technology professionals, equipped to help providers adopt electronic health records. Now, an independent review has found that grantees “successfully met the requirements of the Workforce Program, and many aspects of the program have continued beyond the end of the period of grant funding.”

HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT funded the study, which was conducted by the NORC at the University of Chicago and released this month. The report relied on student and faculty surveys, site visits, administrative data and other information.

The report highlights accomplishments and challenges of ONC’s Workforce Program initiatives:

Community College Consortia to Educate Information Technology Professionals in Health Care program (CCC program): The program was effective in enabling colleges to offer non-degree health IT training programs, according to the report. Between April 2010 and October of last year, 81 colleges in the consortia trained 19,773 individuals. Schools used the funds to establish or improve non-degree health IT training programs that could be completed within six months.

Program of Assistance for University-Based Training (UBT program): Under the program, colleges and universities created or expanded health IT training programs for roles that required a high level of training. Those roles included clinician or public health leader, health information management and exchange specialist and health information privacy and security specialist. The program awarded nearly 1,700 master’s degrees or certificates of advanced study in health IT between April 2010 and last October. Eighty-nine percent of students surveyed said they were employed after completing the program.

Curriculum Development Centers Program (the Centers): Funding was used to develop health IT educational materials for the CCC program. The materials were made available to schools across the country using a secure electronic site.

Competency Examination for Individuals Completing Non-Degree Training (HIT Pro Exam): ONC awarded Northern Virginia Community College a $6 million cooperative agreement to fund the design and initial administration of competency exams in health IT. “While many students elected to take the exam because they hoped it would help to make them more marketable, employers remained largely unaware of the exam and were not sure what it demonstrated in terms of an applicant’s skill set,” the report noted. “Communication to employers about the exam and the significance of a passing score is necessary to provide relevance to the exam in the eyes of both employers and potential exam takers.”

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