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Preparing the Health IT Workforce of Tomorrow

Dr. David Blumenthal | November 24, 2009

Today’s announcement of $80 million in Recovery Act funds for workforce training marks the first in a series of HITECH grant programs to address our nation’s growing need for highly skilled and trained health IT professionals.  The development of this workforce will have a significant impact through job creation in two fields – technology and health care – that comprise a significant portion of our economy.

As we move toward broad adoption and use of electronic health records in medical practices, we will need more than 50,000 qualified and trained health IT professionals to support our modernized health system.  We need to “grow” a corps of talent to support rising demand sparked by the upcoming HITECH incentives.

How do we get 50,000 workers ready to usher in the digital information age in health care? We intend to leverage the nation’s community colleges as the training ground for health IT professionals.  These institutions are present in many of our communities and offer the reach, flexibility, and diversity we need to help assure that the proper educational resources are available for both experienced and new IT professionals looking to play a role in this important evolution in health care.

As a physician who has had to incorporate EHRs into my daily practice, I understand how important it is to have well-trained IT support on hand that understand not only the technology, but its unique applications in patient care.  I’ve often characterized information as the “lifeblood” of modern medicine, and health IT as the “circulatory system.”  Well, these are the people who will make sure the ‘lifeblood’ keeps flowing through the system.  This is why workforce initiatives are among the first programs to be formally unveiled.

Over the next few days, you will be hearing more about the community college training programs and curriculum development to help strengthen the health IT workforce.  And in the coming weeks, additional programs to fund workforce training and development will be announced.

As the workforce training grants are published you can find application information and deadlines here.

David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P. – National Coordinator for Health Information Technology