New ONC Grant Funding Opportunities Help Advance Health IT in Communities and Workforce Training

Dr. Karen B. DeSalvo and Ahmed E. Haque | February 3, 2015

ONC has released a funding opportunity announcement designed to strengthen the health IT workforce and build on work done by the 17 Beacon Communities to innovate health care delivery with the goal of building a learning health system, as outlined in the recently posted Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. These initiatives are part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to achieve better care, smarter savings and healthier people.

We are issuing $6.4 million in new funding opportunities to continue to train the health IT workforce of tomorrow. We are also releasing a $1.7 million funding opportunity to support health IT innovations that improve population health at the community level. These funds will go to support programs that help clinicians, administrators, organizations, and communities continue to learn and grow on the path to interoperable health IT.

ONC encourages all eligible applicants to access both the Workforce Training Program (funding opportunity number: WF-WF-15-300) and Community Health Peer Learning Program (funding opportunity number: CLP-CL-15-001) funding opportunity announcements on

ONC’s initial programs resulted in major accomplishments. The Community College Consortia program saw 19,773 graduates, almost double the original goal. The University-based training programs targeted existing health professionals to pursue a postgraduate certificate and/or degree to prepare them for health IT leadership and management roles and also exceeded its target of 1,500 students graduating from the program. We strive to build on these successes through these new programs.

The Workforce Training Program will update training materials from the original Workforce Curriculum Development Program and train health care workers to use new health information technologies in a variety of settings: team-based care environment, long-term care facilities, patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations, hospitals and clinics. In a nod to the progress that has been made in adoption of EHRs and, in an effort to help providers and practices adapt to the changing health care landscape, the workforce efforts will focus on four key topic areas:

  1. Population Health
  2. Care Coordination
  3. New Care Delivery and Payments Models
  4. Value Based Care

Meanwhile, the 17 Beacon Communities focused on building an interoperable health IT infrastructure that tested innovations and sought to improve population health, both at the practice and community levels. Collectively, Beacon Communities touched nearly 9,000 providers and more than 8 million patient lives. This work generated actionable information that can be adapted by other communities, hospitals, health systems, individual practices, and community organizations to advance community level health care transformation using health IT. Many of the lessons learned from the Beacon Communities can be found in six learning guides.

The new Community Health Peer Learning Program will bring communities together to work in partnership with national experts, local technical experts, consumers, stakeholders, and ONC to facilitate shared community learning and problem solving through a collaborative learning program. Participating communities will be required to identify an impactful, measureable, and actionable work plan to improve the use of health information to achieve improved population health.  Community Health Peer Learning Program participants will identify data solutions, accelerate local progress, disseminate best practices and learning guides, and help inform national strategy around population health challenges.

Through these grant programs, we look forward to continuing our strong partnership with the academic, provider, and health IT communities. Our goal is to help others learn how best to use health IT to keep patients at the center of care delivery.