The US government is on a drive to recruit more IT professionals as it plans a huge healthcare IT programme.
The government's economic recovery package was signed into law yesterday and one of its main projects will see American healthcare records computerised over the next five years. Around $22bn has been earmarked for the project.
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In the Recovery and Reinvestment Act bill, which sets out in detail where the money will go, plans are laid out to encourage IT and healthcare students to work on various parts of the new projects.
The bill says the government will "establish or expand medical health informatics education programmes, including certification, undergraduate, and masters degrees programmes, for both healthcare and information technology students to ensure the rapid and effective utilisation and development of health information technologies (in the United States healthcare infrastructure)."
Government assistance in the programmes will involve developing and revising curricula in medical health informatics and related subjects, helping to recruit and retain students to the programme involved, and providing the equipment necessary for teaching students effectively - including the installation of testbed networks for student use.
The government will also look at "establishing or enhancing bridge programmes in the health informatics field between community colleges and universities."
Priority for assistance and funding will be given to programmes that already exist, or that are designed to take less than six months.
Obama mentioned the healthcare IT project in his speech yesterday, saying, "Because we know that spiralling healthcare costs are crushing families and businesses alike, we are taking the most meaningful steps in years towards modernising our healthcare system.
It is an investment that will take the long overdue step of computerising America's medical records to reduce the duplication and waste that costs billions of healthcare dollars, and medical errors that cost thousands of lives each year."