You don't always need a master's program to break into health IT. These non-degree programs offer viable options for many job seekers.
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At the inaugural InformationWeek Healthcare CIO Roundtable in July 2012, some of America's most influential healthcare CIOs lamented that a workforce training initiative from the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) was not helping to ease the severe shortage of health IT talent, at least not on the provider side.
"The people coming out of the ONC workforce training programs don't have any practical experience," said Rebecca Armato, executive director for physician and interoperabililty services at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, Calif.
"But I don't think that's a reason not to do the training programs," added Gary Christensen, CIO and COO of the Rhode Island Quality Institute, which serves as a Beacon Community Regional Extension Center and health information exchange. "I don't think it was a bad idea to try to start creating curriculum and programs to get people thinking about these careers earlier."
Though they may lack real-world experience, people who successfully complete an ONC-funded training program at community colleges across the country receive a professional certificate of completion, attesting to prospective employers that they have certain skills to enter the health IT workforce.
Certificate holders should understand healthcare-specific regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security rules. They should understand how electronic health records (EHRs) are transforming healthcare, and how the conversion to ICD-10 coding, Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12 version 5010 electronic transaction standards, and new reimbursement models are straining IT departments.
Similarly, non-university health IT certificate programs--more online than in a classroom these days--exist for people who want to break into health IT on their own schedules. These, as IT consultant and security consultant Michael Shannon recently told InformationWeek Healthcare, can be quite useful. "If I were a young person wanting to get into health IT, I would probably bypass the university system and try to get certification, do online training," he said.
Those with years of experience can burnish their credentials, too, by taking refresher courses, upgrading skills with continuing education, and sitting for a professional certification exam.
Whether earned through a community college, a professional membership society, or a private training company, a non-degree certification--and a few extra letters after your name--can command a lot of respect. Dig into our slideshow to take a closer look at some of the health IT certification options available to you.