Six months ago, the Office of the National Coordinator awarded $64 million in cooperative agreements for the “Health IT Workforce Development Program.” HITECH authorized the creation of such a program to create or expand education programs across the United States to train a highly skilled workforce of health IT professionals. These professionals are anticipated to be needed to put in place – and enable the use of – secure, interoperable EHRs.
The Health IT Workforce Development Program is part of the educational spectrum and fills an important gap. For example, through the Community College Consortia Program, adults have the opportunity to earn certificates in health IT. Dr. Blumenthal, National Coordinator, has an open letter on the ONC website discussing the workforce programs and noting that the first graduates had emerged from this program.
Now, 84 such courses are underway at community colleges across the nation. We’ve heard from one program – the University of Texas at Austin – that its health IT summer certificate program graduates have been placed with EHR vendor firms, consulting firms, RECs, and health systems all over the country. Only a few students have yet to secure a position.
There is no doubt that education at all levels is important – community college, undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and post-doc. Our next generation of leaders must be equipped.
HIMSS has a 50-year long history of supporting high-quality education for health professionals to ensure their competency in IT and management systems. For example, the Society has been a long-time member of CAHME – the Commission for the Accreditation of Health Management Education. I now serve on the Board of CAHME, representing HIMSS.
CAHME serves the public good by promoting, evaluating, and improving the quality of graduate-level health management education in both the US and Canada. More than 130 colleges and universities in North America are accredited by CAHME. The intent of CAHME is to ensure that graduate students emerging from their master’s programs are equipped for managing healthcare environments in the 21st century.
What I’m wondering about is the job market. While our nation is beginning to show the first signs of emergence from our very difficult economic recession, we continue to hear news of firms in the healthcare space laying off workers. Conversely, like the University of Texas at Austin example above, we are hearing news about some hiring underway.
I’d like to hear from you. Does your employer have plans to hired new health IT workers in the near future? If so, what types of skills will you be seeking? How many jobs do you think might be created?