The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded Bellevue College first-year funding of $3.36 million to lead a 10-state consortium of community colleges in expanding health information technology (health IT) training over the next two years.
Under the grant, Bellevue College will join four other community colleges — from Ohio, Virginia, California and North Carolina – in leading one of the five, multi-state community college consortia HHS is establishing to expand health IT training in all 50 states.
Each consortium will develop and launch new programs to train workers across its region in computer-based tools such as digital medical records; billing, scheduling, patient monitoring and decision-making programs; and systems for communicating with patients and consumers. Applying these tools in hospitals, clinics and physician’s offices is believed by many to be one of the most productive ways to improve the quality and efficiency of American health care.
Bellevue College will use $1.6 million of the grant to administer the consortium and develop programs in Washington, disbursing the remainder to the other seven consortium members: Portland Community College (Portland, Ore.), North Idaho College (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho), Salt Lake Community College (Salt Lake City, Utah), Montana Tech (Butte, Mont.), Pueblo Community College ( Pueblo, Col.), Dakota State University (Madison, S. D.), and Lake Region State College (Devils Lake, N. D.).
Each college will use its funds to implement nationally developed health IT curricula, and support learners in finding related employment. In addition to colleges in the members’ states, schools in Alaska and Wyoming are expected to be involved in this aspect of the project.
Altogether, the consortium plans to train a total of 2,400 new health IT workers over the next two years – 300 in Washington state alone – and assist them in finding jobs.
Bellevue College has been heavily involved in the new field of life science informatics since 2004, which when it received $875,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor to serve as the Life Science Informatics Center of Excellence of the National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce. Under that grant, the college developed job skill standards and curricula that are used now as a national resource by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
As the designated Center for Information Technology Excellence for Washington’s community and technical colleges, Bellevue College has already developed an 18-credit, online certificate program to train dislocated IT workers for jobs in the healthcare industry. This curriculum is now being implemented by five Washington state community colleges (including Bellevue).
Earlier this year, Washington’s Health Care Authority selected Bellevue College, through a competitive process, to lead American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-related development and technical training of Washington’s health IT workforce.
The grant from HHS, part of a total $144 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds the department is disbursing, in its words, to “enlist the talent and resources of some of the nation’s leading universities, community colleges and major research centers to advance the widespread adoption and meaningful use of health IT.”