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Back To School: Courses Help Physicians Learn Health IT

ACPE certificate program aids physician leaders in understanding the lingo, technology, processes and challenges involved with implementing e-health records and other health IT.

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
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Slideshow: Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
The American College of Physician Executives has a new 40-hour course program in health IT that can help M.D. who lead hospitals, integrated health delivery networks, physician groups, and committees better understand the important health IT projects underway at their organizations.

The ACPE certificate program can also give the participants a head start for a earning a master's degree in healthcare management from several U.S. universities.

According to ACPE's description of its new program, the courses promise to provide information that allows physicians executives to "be conversant on IT issues and fundamentals; develop the skills to manage the people implementing IT; and successfully strategize, plan, and implement health IT changes."

Participants can choose 40 hours in course work from a variety of offerings, including courses covering the fundamentals of health IT such as health information exchanges and health information security; adoption and implementation of e-health records, including courses that cover organizational culture and change management; and clinical functionality, including e-prescribing and clinical decision support.

Also among the offering are courses called "The CMO-CIO Partnership" and "Leadership in Complex Organizations."

"All our members are MDs, many come from the clinical side, or the business side," said Susan Quinn, ACPE VP of operations, who was closely involved with developing for the new ACPE curriculum. "Many are CMOs, VPs of medical affairs, chief medical information officers, or leaders of committees in healthcare systems or hospitals," she said in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.

"These leaders don't need to know the nuts and bolts of EHRs and e-prescribing, but they need to know the basics," she said. "Our goal is to help them understand what's involved with these systems, including change management, quality, patient safety improvement, and other important aspects," she said.

For most organizations, the success of EHR and other health IT projects is dependent on buy-in from the clinical side as well as support from other health executives and physician leaders. The ACPE course aims to help that, she said.

"CIOs may be looking at physicians to help smooth the bumpy road," she said. The ACPE courses address the challenges involved with health IT implementations so that physician leaders better understand what's involved with these projects.

The 40-hour certificate curriculum concludes with a capstone program and project at ACPE's Fall Institutes, a two-day program that costs $800. Total cost of the certificate program is $4,800, including $100 per credit hour for the 40-hour curriculum. The next Capstone program is slated for November in Scottsdale, Ariz. After that, the next capstone will likely be offered next year.

All certificate courses are offered online so that attendees can complete the program at their own pace.

The courses provide category 1 CME credits, and all are eligible for elective credit in ACPE's Master Degree and CPE prerequisite.

Universities that participate in the ACPE prerequisite program for earning credits toward a master's degree include University of Massachusetts Amherst's Isenberg School of Management; Carnegie Mellon's Heinz College School of Public Policy and Management; University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business; and Thomas Jefferson University's school of population health.

Since the program was launched last month, about 100 of ACPE's 10,000 members have signed up, said Quinn. As EHR projects surge and HITECH Act meaningful use deadlines approach, ACPE expects others will register as well, she said.

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