Community college training of HIT professionals questioned

University of Michigan School of Public Health

Is the federal program delivering?

WASHINGTON – The government plans to fork out a total of nearly $70 million in grants to five community colleges assigned with leading a federal healthcare IT training program. But is the Community College Consortia to Educate Health Information Technology Professionals delivering?

Since its inception in March, some think it’s not – at least not yet. At a recent meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee, member and Florida state legislator Gayle Harrell, said she has concerns. Her constituents have been complaining that graduates of the program have not had enough hands-on training, she said.

Funded by the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act of 2009, the consortia of 82 community colleges was designed to offer six-month training courses for as many as 10,500 students each year.

Patricia Dombrowski is director of the Life Science Informatics Center at Bellevue College in Bellevue, Washington. Her school heads Region A of the program, covering the 10 northwestern states.

Dombrowski has good things to report about the program’s success so far. Her region has surpassed all of its goals in 2011.

If there is a lack of hands-on training, she said, it’s not for lack of trying. Vendors have been unwilling to grant students access to their electronic health record products, for fear of proprietary breech.

Dombrowski feels confident, however, that healthcare IT vendors will come around. “It’s an indication of how young this sector is. The idea of what's proprietary is still so incredibly high,” she said.

To solve the problem for now, Dombrowsi said her region has been working to attract vendors to set up a vendor lending library. In addition, the ONC has provided access to the Veterans Administration’s VISTA system.