HHS, AHIMA to bring EHR training to rural and underserved areas

Discounted electronic health record software and free health IT training for providers are the crux of a collaboration announced this week between the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and Williston Park, N.Y.-based North Shore Medical Labs that will enhance healthcare in underserved areas.

One-hundred doctors in small practices in Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina will receive free health IT training, courtesy of AHIMA, the organization revealed at its annual convention in Salt Lake City. HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator are tasked with identifying the communities, while North Shore is expected to donate 75 percent of the cost of EHR software and services through Nortec Software. North Shore's offering includes fully integrated practice management; according to company President Dr. Abid Sheikh, North Shore has committed roughly $1.5 million, so far.

"While it doesn't seem [like] that significantly large a number, you have to remember in many rural and underserved urban communities, there are very few healthcare providers," Commander David Dietz, of the HHS Office of Minority Health, said. "This initiative has an opportunity to affect thousands upon thousands of patients."

Eligible providers will be recruited by the Mississippi Institute for Improvement of Geographic Minority Health, as well as the North Carolina Health Information Management Association (NCHIMA). To be deemed eligible for the program, a provider must: 

  • Practice in a Medically Underserved Area (MUA) or Health Provider Shortage Area (HPSA) designated by HHS;
  • Have an Internet connection and use an electronic billing system;
  • Be a small practice group of one to five providers or a Federally Qualified Health Center within the MUA and/or PSA;
  • Be eligible to receive "meaningful use" incentives, as defined by the HITECH Act; and
  • Complete an initial application and submit monthly reports.

A similar program was rolled out in June by HHS to provide EHRs for medically underserved areas in and around Houston.

AHIMA simultaneously announced a workforce initiative--HIM Jobs for America--to try to increase the number of health information management professionals throughout the nation. The initiative touts providing tax credits for employers offering training and/or retraining for future or current HIM professionals.

For more on both:
- read this announcement on the AHIMA partnership with HHS and North Shore
- here's the announcement for the HIM Jobs for America initiative