David Blumenthal, M.D., the federal governments national coordinator for health information technology, says his office will announce within weeks or months what he calls a workforce training initiative to educate more health information management professionals with expertise in electronic health records and related technologies. We know there are at least 50,000 new jobs that are needed in this field, Blumenthal said Oct. 6 at the American Health Information Management Association convention in Grapevine, Texas. Health information professionals, he added, will prove essential to the task of making sure hospitals, physician groups and others become meaningful users of EHRs. Reacting to Blumenthals comments, Linda Kloss, CEO of AHIMA, stressed that the task of training 50,000 more professionals should primarily be handled by the existing 270 health information management academic programs. We must avoid a rush to start new programs that lack adequate oversight on the quality of the education offered, she stressed. AHIMA will play a role by educating its 54,000 members about information technology, she added. In a speech devoid of much new information, Blumenthal offered no details about the nature of upcoming training programs. He noted, however, that the government expects to begin awarding grants for regional extension centers in December. These centers will help educate clinicians and their staffs about the use of EHRs. Blumenthal also was tight-lipped about the pending definition of meaningful use that will be used for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. For her part, Kloss urged regulators not to require providers to use the complex SNOMED vocabulary in their EHRs to qualify for the initial round of incentives, claiming that would be too difficult a task. A committee that drafted initial recommendations for meaningful use called for the use of the vocabulary. But as the meaningful use criteria are toughened over the long haul, Kloss urged the federal government to consider adding benchmarks for administrative processes, including standard billing practices as well as a clear definition of what constitutes a legal record. Such steps, she said, would squeeze administrative costs out of the system. Under ARRA, regulators must issue by the end of this year a proposed definition of meaningful use to be applied to the incentive program in 2011. But a final meaningful use rule is not expected until late spring.
This article can also be found at HealthDataManagement.com.
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