UT Austin receives $2.7M grant to train health IT workers

Health IT Certificate students participate in a mock clinic in the learning laboratory at the Clinical Education Center at University Medical Center Brackenridge. From left to right: Sean El Haj, Sachin Chopra and Dustin Murders. Photo courtesy of The University of Texas at Austin.

The University of Texas at Austin's new Health Information Technology program is being bolstered by a $2.7 million federal grant that will support four programs aimed at "fast tracking" university graduates into the field of healthcare information technology.

The program graduated its first class of 54 students this past July.

"Our first graduates are really impressive," says Leanne Field, director of the program. "They are entering a field that is rapidly growing and will only continue to gain importance as we move toward electronic health records across the country. The industry demand is very high."

Texas State University is the lead institution for the PURE HIT consortium, a project supported by a grant from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), that aims at recruiting students to participate in healthcare IT certificate programs and a master's program in electronic health record/health information exchange implementation. The University of Texas College of Natural Sciences in Austin and The University of Texas Health School of Biomedical Informatics at Houston are also participants.

Total funding for the consortium is $5.4 million, the largest award in the nation funded for university-based education in health IT. The University of Texas at Austin certificate program is the first in the nation among those receiving ONC health information technology funding to graduate students.

At the university, the funding will support the establishment of four programs in the health information technology field:

  • The summer Health Information Technology Certificate for recent graduates,
  • A Health Information Privacy and Security Certificate for computer science students,
  • A Public Health Informatics Certificate for public health students, and
  • A Health Information Technology Sub-Specialist Certificate for graduate students.

"A groundbreaking transformation is occurring in the delivery of healthcare in the United States," says Field. "The College of Natural Sciences and the School of Biological Sciences are rapidly responding to this need."

The summer certificate program is nine weeks of intensive study that trains students in the fundamental concepts of health information technology, project management and workflow redesign, operational models of healthcare practice and skill development in the use of various electronic health record systems.

Students are given opportunities to enhance their professional communication and career development skills. Graduates of the program are awarded a certificate as a "Health Information Manager and Exchange Specialist."