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Healthcare IT: The Lowdown on EHR and Stimulus Certifications

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Healthcare IT: The Lowdown on EHR and Stimulus CertificationsHealthcare IT: The Lowdown on EHR and Stimulus CertificationsThe economic stimulus money that the US Congress passed and the president signed in 2009 continues to bear fruit for IT professionals.

The HITECH Act spawned funding for a Workforce Development Program that has in turn led to numerous initiatives to train and foster a growing cadre of Healthcare IT Professionals. Learn more about these efforts, and related certifications in this week’s “Making it in IT” blog.

When the President and Congress were able to make legislation in 2009, one fruit of their labors included the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka ARRA), which included a provision that’s become known as the HITECH Act (that’s short for Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act). Among other things, HITECH included an estimated $19 billion or so to foster and pay for expanded use of electronic health records (EHR) technology in hospitals, clinics, and medical practices all over the USA.

According to an article at GoCertify “Healthcare IT Pro: The Stimulus Certifications” as many as 50,000 new jobs will be created by 2017 to support the resulting move from paper-based medical records to EHR systems. My gut feel is that this will also mean a great many more IT jobs in the medical field in general, above and beyond those professionals needed to set up and implement new systems, and convert medical records from paper to electronic form.

To help meet demand for qualified IT professionals to support the conversion process, and maintain EHR collections, the Government’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has funded a Health IT Workforce Development Program, whose goal is to train a cadre of health IT professionals to help medical care providers at all levels convert to EHR and to put electronic medical records technology to good use. In fact, there are four distinct initiatives that fall under this umbrella, all of which combine to support curriculum development, training, and certification (based on a competency exam) for IT professionals interested in work with EHR:

  • Community College Consortia: develop and determine the best ways to train IT Healthcare professionals through the nation’s widespread (and heavily attended) community college system, including training for job roles such as practice workflow and information management redesign, clinician/practitioner consultants, implementation support specialists and managers, technical and software support for EHR, and trainers to deliver the overall curriculum involved.
  • Curriculum Development Centers: provide funding to support higher education institutions (or consortia of such institutions) to develop health information technology curriculum development. Awardees include Oregon Health and Science University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and Duke University, each of whom received between 1.8 and 2.7 million dollars for this purpose. These materials are available at no charge to anyone who registers at the Curriculum Components web page.
  • Competency Exam Program: The fruits of a $6M 2-year award to Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) to create health information technology competency exams for the various job roles described in the first bullet in this list (practice workflow and information management redesign, clinician practitioner consultants, etc.). Exam blueprints are available for all exams delivered through Pearson Vue, exam vouchers available through program and consortium member institutions, state and government agencies, and health care providers.
  • University-Based Training: cover higher-level and more advanced job roles including clinician/public health leader, health information management and exchange specialist, research and development specialist, programmers and software engineers, and health IT sub-specialists. Above institutions already mentioned in the curriculum development centers item, participating institutions include University of Colorado Denver College of Nursing, George Washington University, Indiana University, University of Minnesota, and Texas State University. These are all charter institutions charged with “promptly establishing new and/or expanded training programs as rapidly as possible…” Other programs will undoubtedly follow suit.

This information puts all of the health information technology certifications I’ve encountered in the marketplace into great context, and helps explain the specific job roles, tools, and technologies they target. For more information on Health Information Technology (HIT) certifications, please see my companion story on Tom’s IT Pro: “Top 5 IT Certifications in Healthcare.”

One thing is for sure: healthcare IT offers a huge growth vector for jobs in the field, and makes a great career path for those seeking ample and widespread employment opportunities.

Ed TittelEd TittelEd Tittel is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who’s worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.

Check out Ed's Tom's IT Pro  Making It in IT - Certification & Training blog here.

See here for all of Ed's Tom's IT Pro articles.

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