Health IT Training’s Faces of Success
An entrepreneur and a nurse are among the successes of a Recovery Act-funded program at Indiana University to build up the nation’s health information technology (IT) workforce.
The entrepreneur, Vinnie Rao, 42, started and sold an IT consulting firm and started a home health and wellness business. But while he came to learn about the need for the broader adoption of IT within the health care community, Rao said he didn’t know health IT systems.
The RN, Jacqueline Schuh, 26, was directing patient care at a student health center when her father-in-law, who worked for the State of Illinois Medicaid program, told her to start thinking about health IT because “it’s going to be a booming market.”
Since graduating from the health IT workforce training program last year, Rao has become the first chief information officer (CIO) for the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office. Schuh has gone on to work for Ascension Health, the 20-state Catholic health care system, joining a team that is converting care groups for St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital from paper records to electronic health records (EHR).
Meaningful Technology to Support Health Caring
Producing a highly-trained health IT workforce is essential to the Obama administration’s plans to promote widespread meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR) technology by doctors, hospitals and health clinics to improve patient care and increase efficiency in health care.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) awarded $32 million in Recovery Funds to nine colleges and universities, including the Indiana Health Information Technology Training Collaborative (I-HITTC), to establish university-based training (UBT) to create a highly-specialized health IT workforce. ONC also awarded $84 million in Recovery Act funds to community colleges and other higher education institutions to train students, develop curricula and provide competency testing for high tech jobs in health care. These workforce development programs are part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provisions of the Recovery Act.
Training is Key to Successful IT Careers
More than 600 students have completed university-based training programs and about 700 are currently enrolled. Nineteen students have graduated from the Indiana program and 44 students are currently enrolled in its program run by I-HITTC , a collaboration of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Informatics, the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Regenstrief Institute.
I-HITTC offers one-year graduate certificate and two-year master’s programs to train clinician and public health leaders, health information management and exchange specialists, health information privacy and security specialists and programmer and software engineers for public and private health care organizations. Two of its certificate programs are offered online.
Students accepted into the certificate program are eligible for scholarships. While eligible students may be physicians, nurses, researchers, and others with a background in health care or IT, they may not already be in the health IT workforce.
“A lot of people are retooling their careers,” said Dr. John T. Finnell, who directs the Indiana program. He is an emergency medicine specialist and he directs National Library of Medicine-funded training at Regenstrief Institute. “Vinnie [Rao] is one of those entrepreneurial types. He didn’t have a health background. … Most of folks are interested in the health side. Vinnie is from the business side.”
And while Rao did not take a health-related IT job after finishing the program, Finnell and ONC officials count him as a success because he was able to secure such a cutting edge IT job. Rao notes that his work as CIO establishing a one-stop business portal for the state is similar to the health information exchanges (HIE), that he studied at Indiana. HIE is a ONC Recovery Act program intended to build the capacity to electronically exchange health information securely across the health care system within and across state lines.
After he establishes the business portal, Rao said he hopes to find a leadership opportunity in health IT and use what he’s learned in his current job. The business one-stop portal “essentially connects and exchanges the information systems among several state agencies and in turn provides better service for businesses in the state of Indiana,” Rao said.
Schuh’s health IT training and her new job with Ascension Health has taken her from clinical nursing and opened up a new career. She works on site with the health care providers and support staff, analyzing a practice group’s workflow and building the IT system they need. Then, she’s there on the day the group transfers from paper to EHRs, helping make sure everything works. There is one “go-live” rollout planned for every month for three years, she said, adding, “It’s more than turning on a switch.”
Graduating from the UBT program, “I knew meaningful use. … It got me ahead,” Schuh said. “I know workflows, how nurses think.”
She’s not in clinical nursing now, rather she’s a nurse informaticist, but Schuh said, “With my personality, I honestly think this fits me better.”
More Recovery Act Stories on Health Information Technology
Learn more about HHS university-based training programs for the health IT workforce.
Learn more about other Recovery Act-funded health IT stories:
For more information about HHS Recovery Act programs, see http://www.hhs.gov/recovery/programs/