New ARRA-funded Health IT Programs Open to Students
The first group of ARRA-related health IT classes began on schedule in community colleges across the country recently, filled with students hoping to break into the emerging EHR implementation market.
In late September, more than 80 community colleges nationwide began offering health IT classes through the Community College Consortia to Educate Information Technology Specialists in Health Care. The program is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The six-month, non-degree training programs are being offered in six different HIT tracks, training people in roles like practice workflow, information management specialist, and EHR implementation manager.
With many programs being continuously offered online and in classrooms throughout the year, interested students can still join the program. Most colleges in the consortia offer full or partial financial aid that allows qualified students the ability to complete the course at minimal cost, according to Kay Gooding, MPH, MAEd, RHIA, the consortia’s region D project director, based in Pitt Community College in Greenville, NC.
The programs are great for HIM professionals looking to work in the growing EHR implementation industry, Gooding said. In order to get individuals placed in jobs quickly after completing the program, students must have some healthcare or IT background in order to qualify for enrollment.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the health information-trained folks of AHIMA to move right into this,” she said. “We think that it is going to be an excellent career ladder opportunity to bring them into the HIT field.”
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT allocated about $70 million for the program with the hope that participants would fill new health IT jobs expected to come from increased EHR implementations, thanks in part to the ARRA-based EHR implementation incentive payments.
While official consortia-wide enrollment numbers are not yet available, the consortium’s region D, which covers 20 community colleges, has seen 450 students enrolled in its first offering of six tracks.
This number meets region D goals and is a positive sign interest in the program is high across the country, Gooding said. As part of the program, region D must train a minimum of 3,300 students over the two-year program. ONC hopes the national consortia will train 10,500 students annually for entrance into the health IT workforce.
Many of the students are displaced IT workers, clinicians, and HIM professionals looking for a new or expanded career, while others are retired individuals looking to re-enter the workforce, Gooding said.
The consortia programs were launched on time despite having only months to be developed. ONC announced winning consortium members in April 2010, leaving colleges five months to create programs, recruit faculty, and enroll students. Many colleges, like Pitt, leaned on their HIM and HIT faculty to help with courses.
Curriculum for the six certificate programs is still being created by a group of educators selected by ONC. Only half of the program’s six-month curriculum was delivered to colleges prior to the program’s launch, making it difficult for educators to initially provide a full syllabus of course material to students. The second half will be delivered to educators by October 29, 2010, well before that material will be presented to students in late December/early January, Gooding said.
For more information on enrolling in the HIT certificate programs and to view a nationwide list of participating community colleges, visit the ONC Web site.