Gates Foundation to fund global informatics training

The American Medical Informatics Association will announce Monday that it has received a $1.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote health informatics and biomedical education and training worldwide, particularly in developing countries.

This will be the first project of a new program called 20/20, in which the International Medical Informatics Association and its regional affiliates, including AMIA, will attempt to train 20,000 informatics professionals globally by 2020. This is an outgrowth of the AMIA 10×10 program to train 10,000 people in informatics in the U.S. by 2010. IMIA and its partners will discuss details of 20/20 this week at the Wellcome Trust in London.

AMIA will use the Gates Foundation money to develop “scaleable” approaches to e-health education, including a replicable blueprint for training informatics leaders, including physicians, medical records professionals, computer scientists and medical librarians.

“We envision the program will train leaders in low-resource nations by linking them and their institutions to partner institutions affiliated with AMIA to build capacity for managing and improving high-quality, low-cost healthcare in the less-developed economies,” AMIA explains in a statement. AMIA President and CEO Don Detmer, M.D., says this element of 20/20 is aimed at career informaticians “so there won’t be a brain drain.”

Other elements of 20/20 will include individual and degree-track courses at colleges and universities—similar to existing 10×10 curriculum—and skills training, not necessarily specific to medical informatics. “We’re also looking at ways of creating seminars and executive training for people to advocate for this in their home countries,” Detmer says.

Detmer, who is retiring at the end of the year, says the skills training will happen in “bits and bites” to help build incremental capacity in the global e-health workforce. Some planning in this area has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation as part of a $500,000 grant the charity gave to AMIA to lead one of the Making the eHealth Connection conferences last summer in Bellagio, Italy.

The 20/20 program is chaired by N.T. Cheung, head of IT for the Hong Kong Hospital Authority. Other confirmed or likely participating organizations include the European Federation for Medical Informatics, the Asia Pacific Association for Medical Informatics and the Health Informatics Society of Australia.