Funds to Expand Health Workforce and Broadband Technology

By Ramona du Houx

March 20th, 2010 

Maine will receive $11.5 million in Recovery Act funds to promote the quality of health care through technology and to develop the State’s health care workforce.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Seblius announced that Maine will receive $6.5 million in federal funds to develop and implement a statewide health information technology plan.

“This important federal funding is a critical step in national health reform,” said Governor Baldacci. “Investing in our health technology lays the foundation for a more efficient and effective health care system that serves patients better and at less cost. I am pleased that our federal partners have recognized Maine’s work to address access, quality and affordability of health care.”

The Recovery Act funding allows the expansion of Maine’s health information exchange, HealthInfoNet, to eventually reach all healthcare providers in the State. In addition, the funds will be used to provide coordination and oversight of this important initiative. The Federal government requires that states receiving funds to establish an Office of the State Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The responsibilities of the new entity are to:

• Insure the protection and privacy of health information records;
• Coordinate with MaineCare on a health information technology plan designed to meet the needs of people receiving the MaineCare benefit;
• Coordinate with ConnectMe on Maine’s broadband project to bring fiber optic cable and expanded system capacity across the state;
• Collaborate with leadership of Maine’s healthcare system to realize the full potential of health information technology by supporting plans to achieve meaningful use of the technology;
• Explore opportunities with Maine’s education system to develop training and degree programs leading to job opportunities in health information technology; and
• Develop sustainability plans to assure the long-term stability of a health information exchange infrastructure.

The State coordinator will be housed in the Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance and will chair a Steering Committee already established by the Office to coordinate Maine’s health information strategy.

“Health information technology coupled with transformations in the delivery of healthcare hold significant promise to increase quality of care while reducing costs,” said the Governor. “Maine has been in the forefront of health information exchange. Through the work of HealthInfoNet, more than half of Maine’s population benefits from electronic record availability at their point of care. With this funding we intend to reach the whole population in the State.”

In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor announced today that the State of Maine will receive $4.9 million to expand opportunities for Maine’s health care workforce.

The funds will support activities identified as critical to accelerate credentialing and employment in high-demand health care occupations such as Certified Nurse Assistants. The Maine Department of Labor estimates that 400 Mainers will achieve credentialing through this program.

“This job training program will give hundreds of people the chance to get trained for good-paying, secure jobs in health care,” said U. S. Rep. Chellie Pingree. “Not only will it help those just starting out but also individuals who have lost their jobs in other industries and want to start a new career in health care.”

The program will provide assistance and improve access to clinical training programs making it easier for individuals to get training in the health care field, with an emphasis on CNAs, skilled nursing assistants and other positions.

“Taken together, these investments will help address a shortage of health care workers and help improve efficiencies in our state’s health care system,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. “In the coming months and years, Maine will need more and more health care workers to meet demand. This investment in training is an important step forward and will help make sure we have the workforce in place to ensure Mainers get the health care they need.”