Grants to support health IT training in rural areas

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration will award 15 grants of up to $300,000 to support the Rural Health Information Technology Workforce program, it recently announced.

It has set aside $4.5 million to support activities to boost recruitment, education, training, and retention of HIT specialists. 

"The program will also provide support to rural health networks that can leverage and enhance existing HIT training materials to develop formal training programs that will provide instructional opportunities to current health care staff, local displaced workers, rural residents, veterans, and other potential students," according to the announcement.

These formal training programs are designed to equip health IT workers who can help rural hospitals and clinics implement and maintain systems, such as electronic health records, telehealth, home monitoring and mobile health technology, and meet EHR Meaningful Use standards.

Networks must consist of at least three separate organizations. The lead organization must be in a rural area, or in a rural census tract of an urban county, and all services must be provided in rural areas. The organizations must partner with a two-year educational institution, such as a local community college, be able to document previous collaborative efforts and have a permanent network director.

Applications for the three-year grants are due April 15, with grants to be awarded Sept. 1.

A survey last fall from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives found more healthcare organization executives reporting shortages of IT staff than two years ago. Of 163 CIOs who responded to the survey, more than two-thirds said they're experiencing shortages, up from 59 percent in 2010.

Though not a rural program, the QIT Center in Pittsburgh represents one effort to "align supply and demand" of healthcare workers. Kaiser Permanente also announced plans recently for an IT campus in Greenwood Village, Colo.

Yet for all the promise of new technology, such as telemedicine and telemonitoring, tech support remains key to getting doctors on board, a study from Spain found recently.

To learn more:
- find the announcement