Two-billion dollars going toward grant programs to motivate students to enter IT careers in the healthcare industry should help to create between 45,000 and 50,000 jobs over the next five years, said Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, while speaking at the Health Information Technology (HIT) Conference in Boston last Thursday.
Part of the money in discretionary spending under Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) is being used to educate and train health IT professionals for implementing electronic health records. A good amount of this training is for staffing some 60 regional extension centers. These are public/private partnerships designed to help rural hospitals and family physician practices with less than 10 doctors to use electronic medical records. Blumenthal said that an important role of the ONC is to look after those hospitals and community health services that lack resources so that they can be given an extra jolt to kick start their move toward health IT access.
Blumenthal also said that the government will announce soon which 15 communities out of 130 that applied will be awarded Beacon Community grants. The $220 million in grants will be the last of the $2 billion the ONC has to disburse to encourage the use of healthcare IT. Already, the ONC had funded 70 community colleges and universities to create regional health IT workforce training programs.