ABCs Of EHRs: New Training Choices For Non-Techies

A proliferation of health IT training courses means anyone from a hospital chief medical officer to a solo practitioner's nurse now has more ways to learn the basics.
Whether you're a chief medical officer (CMO) at a large hospital or a solo practitioner, there are plenty of opportunities popping up for non-techies to learn everything they need to know about health IT.

Since many of these professionals don't need to learn all the nitty-gritty technical details about electronic health records (EHRs) to understand how the systems will impact their organizations, some training and professional organizations are now focusing their attention on the fundamentals.

Most non-technical clinical leaders, administrators, and practice managers aren't responsible for rolling out or supporting the systems, but need to understand why they're being implemented. That includes learning about the challenges to expect--disruptive workflow changes, for example--when their organizations roll out EHRs, as well as the benefits of successful implementations, such as the ability to detect a wrong prescription for an allergic patient before it's written.

This kind of education not only helps doctors, CMOs, medical affairs leaders, and others from the clinical and business side of healthcare operations--it also makes life easier for CIOs and other IT executives who ultimately will be held accountable for the success and support of these rollouts. Something as seemingly simple as having everyone able to understand the same basic lingo helps communication between healthcare techies and non-techies. (Does your department manager think HIPAA and HITECH are the same thing?)

Of course, many major EHR vendors and third-party consulting firms provide such training to end users. But don't overlook regional extension centers, community colleges, and universities. Many have received government grants to develop programs to educate the health IT workforce who is actually responsible for the rollout of the systems.

But in the meantime, there are a few new programs that target the overlooked non-techie healthcare professional. Those programs include a new 40-hour online course from the American College of Physician Executives. ACPE's new program is aimed at clinical and administrative honchos--including CMOs, VPs of medical affairs, and committee leaders--within health systems, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations. The course provides the basics for these leaders to understand the language, technology, processes, and challenges posed by EHRs and other health IT as they're being implemented in their organizations.

Among the topics covered by the ACPE program is the relationship between clinical and IT leaders, through a course called "the CMO-CIO Partnership."

Meanwhile, to address the health IT learning needs of smaller physician practices, training company Alameda Services this summer will begin offering online courses that will also provide the basics of EHRs, meaningful use, and compliance issues including HIPAA, for busy doctors, practice managers, and staff.

The new online courses coming from Alameda for those non-techies working in doctor practices are in addition to the more intensive EHR classroom curriculum and hands-on training for budding health IT professionals also offered by Alameda. The company has partnerships with NYC Reach, a regional extension center in New York City, as well as LaGuardia Community College and the Met Council on Jewish Poverty.

"Our more segmented e-learning coming in mid-August will give shorter, self-paced training on meaningful use, EHRs, and other topics that medical billers, practice managers, and physicians need to know about," said Alameda VP Lena Feygin, in an interview. "When an industry like health IT is so new to so many, any support you can offer to the different levels and positions of people helps."

And with the new educational opportunities being offered, anyone who needs to learn the ABCs of EHRs, should be able to find what they're looking for.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is a senior writer for InformationWeek.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.

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