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Colleges Gain HHS Health IT Training Materials

Healthcare workforce development programs can freely use the information repository, comprised of more than 7 GB of lectures, assessments, and instructor manuals
17 Leading EHR Vendors
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has released a set of 20 educational components that any college or university can download for free and incorporate into health IT training programs.

The curriculum is not ready to use "out of the box," according to William Hersh, chair of the department of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, who led development efforts. Instead, the material should should be viewed as what ONC chief scientific officer Charles Friedman has called a "buffet," according to Hersh.

"It's more like a library," Hersh explained to InformationWeek Healthcare. "It's a resource for educators."

This repository, available for download, contains narrated, slide-based lectures with more than 8,000 PowerPoint slides and 125 hours of audio, Hersh said. It also includes various learning activities, self-assessment questions, and instructor manuals, according to ONC--a total of 7 gigabytes of material. Users can download a modified copy of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' VistA electronic health record (EHR) system and create exercises around that, Hersh said.

The site went live June 19, although ONC did not make a public announcement until late Thursday. This release actually represents the second version, an upgrade of sorts to an early set of materials that that ONC needed on a short timeline. "There will be a third version of it next year," Hersh promised.

Some of the materials have been used at the 82 community colleges participating in ONC's Community College Consortia program. "I'm sure the RECs will use them," Hersh said, referring to the 62 regional extension centers the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is funding to assist small medical practices and rural hospitals in adopting EHRs. "We'll take some of these materials and use them in our graduate programs [at OHSU]," Hersh added.

OHSU developed the curriculum in conjunction with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University. The five universities received a total of $10 million in ONC grants in April 2010 to create curriculum and other educational materials for health IT workforce training at community colleges. OHSU was designated the national training and dissemination center for the curriculum as part of those grants.

The site went live days before national health IT coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari on Friday delivered a graduation speech to new graduates of health IT master's degree programs at Columbia University and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, another part of ONC's workforce development plan. "Information technology will be transformative for healthcare in America, and it will demand a new workforce with leaders who come from university programs like this one," Mostashari said, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

ONC to date has awarded $116 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for health IT workforce development. Federal officials have determined that community colleges should help train workers for six roles that will be in serious demand: practice workflow and information management redesign specialist; clinician/practitioner consultant; implementation support specialist; implementation manager; technical/software support staff; and trainers.

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