Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Preparing Professionals for a Nationwide Health Care Transformation

Dr. David BlumenthalA Message from Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology 

April 7, 2010
I know that health care providers are concerned about implementing new health information technology and finding professionals who can operate and maintain such systems. I know many clinicians are unsure how they will develop or strengthen their skill set to incorporate using health IT efficiently and effectively without jeopardizing their communication with patients during a clinical visit. It seems like a daunting transformation to clinicians themselves and, indeed, for our health care system overall.  The HITECH Act recognized that the success of this health IT journey depends on people:   people who are passionate about improving patient care, and who are supported in making those improvements.

To this end, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $84 million to 16  institutions of higher education to fund the Health IT Workforce Development Program, which focuses on several key resources required to rapidly expand the availability of health IT professionals who will support broad adoption and use of health IT in the provider community. Those resources include:
  • A community college training program to create a workforce that can facilitate the implementation and support of an electronic health care system
  • Quality educational materials that institutions of higher education can use to construct core instructional programs
  • A competency examination program to evaluate trainee knowledge and skills acquired through non-degree training programs
  • Additional university programs to support certificate and advanced degree training

The Workforce Development Program is one of the best examples of the depth of thought behind the HITECH Act. We could spend many billions of dollars developing, incentivizing, and implementing health IT solutions, but without an effectively trained workforce, our efforts would fall short of their ultimate goal of improving patient care. These efforts, designed in collaboration with the National Science Foundation, Department of Education, and the Department of Labor, are estimated to reduce the shortfall of qualified health IT professionals by 85 percent.

I congratulate the Workforce Development Program awardees and look forward to working with them on this important initiative.  Those who take advantage of professional training in health IT provided through award recipients will find opportunities for interesting, challenging, and important work. Not only do these opportunities represent new jobs, they represent promising careers in a growing sector of our economy. 


David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P.
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Monday, April 5, 2010

$45 Million to Support Better Patient Care in British Columbia

April 1, 2010
Ministry of Health Services | BC Medical Association

VICTORIA – Starting today, specialist physicians in B.C. are eligible for new fees and support that will improve access and service for patients while increasing efficiency and capacity for physicians. 

The new supports are initiatives of the Specialist Services Committee (SSC), a joint committee of the Province and the BC Medical Association (BCMA) that works closely with health authorities on the delivery of specialist physician services to British Columbians. With the mandate of supporting and improving the specialist care system, the committee will receive a total of $45 million in funding by 2011-12 to support its policies and programs.

“The SSC initiatives are one more example of the work we are doing in partnership with the BCMA to improve patient care across the province,” said Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon. “Since 2004, we have invested around $100 million annually through the General Practice Services Committee to support health services provided by family physicians, and evaluations have shown that our investment has paid off with increased satisfaction for patients and doctors. We look forward to similar positive results for B.C.’s specialist care system, including more collaboration between specialist physicians and general practitioners.”

Created to increase specialist capacity and improve patient access to specialist physicians, the Specialist Services Committee introduces a number of new billing options that were not available under the previous billing system. It is anticipated that the changes will result in overall cost avoidance for the health system and provide benefits for both patients and physicians through a reduction in ER visits, and unnecessary or inappropriate referrals. Other expected benefits are increased job satisfaction for specialists and reduced stress for their medical office assistants (MOAs).

“The doctors of B.C. look forward to the long-term success of the SSC initiatives,” said Dr. Brian Brodie, president of the BC Medical Association. “These new initiatives will help support the much-needed communication between specialists and GPs as they co-ordinate the care of their patients. This is about finding ways to improve access to specialty care, as well as improving the overall quality of the services being delivered.”