The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology announced April 15th that 2,280 health information technology professionals will graduate this month from the Community College Consortia to Educate Health IT Professionals program, with 3,000 graduates expected by the end of summer.
Program graduates are part of a broader ONC workforce development program that also includes university based training, health IT competency examinations and the development of a health IT curriculum for use in institutions of higher education. These Community College Consortia graduates represent a portion of the initial health IT workforce that will be trained through the workforce development program this year.
[See also: Community colleges should be tapped for HIT experts.]
The announcement highlights the growth of a new workforce filling a critical need for the health IT professionals necessary to help health care providers and hospitals nationwide improve the overall health of their patients through using health IT. Many graduates of the Community College Consortia program are mid-career professionals with prior backgrounds in health care or information technology.
The training provides these professionals with the knowledge to work with providers and hospitals to adopt and achieve meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs). These new professionals will also be trained to work with EHR vendors to implement EHR systems in provider and hospital settings.
“Training the professionals to support the growing health IT industry is a critical step toward ensuring that health care providers large and small are successful in their adoption and meaningful use of health IT” said Farzad Mostashari, MD, National Coordinator for Health IT. “The workforce development programs represent a comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of the entire health care industry. The programs are designed to deliver highly qualified professionals who are proficient in every level of the health care delivery system.”
The Recovery Act appropriated $2 billion for health IT programs, including funding for workforce development programs intended to address a need for 50,000 more health IT professionals nationwide. Recovery Act funds support several key health IT professional development initiatives authorized by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provisions of the Recovery Act.
The Community College Consortia is made up of five regional groups including 82 member community colleges in all 50 states. By the end of their course of study, students are certified in one of six different health IT roles. These community colleges received grants to develop or improve non-degree health IT training programs that students can complete in six months or less. The Community College Consortia is on course to graduate an estimated 7,000 health IT professionals by year’s end, ramping up to 10,500 per year by 2012.
The Curriculum Development Centers program awarded $10 million to five universities for the development of educational materials for the Community College Consortia program. The materials also will be made available to other schools across the country later this year.
Professionals will also be able to demonstrate their competency by taking the Health IT Professionals Examination. This exam assesses basic proficiency in critical, high-value health IT subject areas for individuals trained through short-duration, non-degree health IT programs.
More than 1,500 people will receive certificates of advanced study from the Program of Assistance for University-Based Training (UBT) program. The UBT program is comprised of nine grants totaling $32 million awarded to colleges and universities to quickly establish or expand health IT training programs for health IT professional roles requiring training at the university level. Students can complete the certificate programs in one year or less, and the master’s degree programs can be completed in two years or less.