Federal Grant Funds USF Move To Electronic Medical Records, 100 Jobs

It is often said that one benefit of using digital documentation in place of paper is the saving of trees. Now a $6 million federal grant awarded to the University of South Florida to fund a project called PaperFree Florida, is touted as having the potential to save lives as well as create jobs.

The grant is expected to fund more than 100 jobs, with most of them being what USF Health CEO Stephen Klasko refers to as "electronic health care ambassadors." People filling these jobs will help physicians in a 20-county area transition to an electronic system of prescribing drugs and maintaining medical records.

USF Health has set up a PaperFree Florida website which provides information about the project.

The jobs will be phased in, says Project Director Dr. Jay Wolfson.

"These jobs will be the result of recruitment, training and placement of qualified individuals over a four-year period," Wolfson says. PaperFree Florida expects to hire its first electronic health ambassadors by June. People who are hired will then undergo training, which should take between 60 and 90 days.

The initial funding for the jobs is substantial, but as a grant the dollars allocated are finite. However, Wolfson sees a long-term need for electronic health ambassadors in the rapidly changing healthcare industry.

"This is a very cool project designed to create a new component of the health workforce, e-health ambassadors, who will play a permanent role facilitating the meaningful use of health information at the community level in order to improve quality, safety, access to appropriate care and reduce costs," he says.

The federal grant is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Writer: Brad Stager
Source: Susanna Martinez Tarokh, USF Health
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