The first group of students enrolled in the federally funded health IT training program will complete the program in March. Their entrance into
the workforce will be a story to watch throughout
2011. Will these individuals find jobs, and will
they speed the implementation of EHRs?
The six-month training program was created by ONC as the
Community College Consortia to Educate Information Technology Specialists in Health Care. More than 80 community
colleges across the country received nearly $70 million for the
program, with a goal of producing thousands of health IT workers that could assist with EHR implementations.
Many of these new health-IT trained workers are expected to
be employed by the RECs, who could put the individuals to work
helping providers implement EHR systems and meet ARRA’s
stage 1 meaningful use requirements.
Many RECs can’t afford to wait for this workforce to arrive,
according to Lou Ann Wiedemann, MS, RHIA, CPEHR, FAHIMA, practice manager with AHIMA. With federal grant money
greatly reduced in mid-2012, the RECs have limited time to sign
up enough providers to become self-sustainable, she says. They
needed an influx of skilled health IT workers back in mid-2010
when they launched, she notes.
Even if REC jobs are available for those who complete consortia training, the RECs have limited funding for salaries and an
uncertain future. RECs could still have trouble recruiting employees, Viola says.
In addition, the first group of graduates is untested—the programs and the curricula are new—and Viola notes the training
program might take some time to mature and truly produce an
“I think it is going to take a while for those resources to really
Health IT Workforce
evolve,” she says. “Working with the changes in the workflow
and how and when physicians enter data—I think it will take a
couple of years for that to flesh out.”
This spring RECs and other employers also will begin seeing
job seekers burnishing the first health IT competency exam cer-
tificates. The exam, another piece of ONC’s workforce plan, is
intended to dovetail with the consortia training programs. How-
ever, it may be used by any individual who has completed non-
degree training in health IT. Successful completion of the exam
will help job seekers demonstrate competency to employers.
Consortia-trained health IT students enter workforce
The first graduates of the federally
sponsored health IT training
program hit the market this spring.
Will the regional extension centers
snap them up as planned?
Perhaps the biggest change to HIM operations this
year will occur in privacy and security. ARRA included major modifications to the HIPAA privacy
and security rules in 2009, and final rules are expected this year. The regulations will describe new
accounting of disclosure requirements, changes to electronic
record access rules, and new patient rights to restrict release of
information, among other issues.
The impact on HIM professionals will be “huge,” according to
Angela Dinh, MHA, RHIA, CHPS, a practice resources manager
Privacy and Security
Final rule on privacy and security rules modification
The impact of changes to the
privacy and security rules will be
huge, and no one is certain how to
comply using today’s IT systems.
Chief among the changes is a new requirement that covered
entities track medical record disclosures for payment, treatment, and operations. Covered entities that purchased EHR
systems on or after January 1, 2009, must begin providing an accounting of all record accesses on January 1, 2011. Entities with
older systems have until 2014 to comply.
Tracking all disclosures presents a massive logistical challenge
for HIM professionals, says Diana Warner, MS, RHIA, CHPS,
professional practice manager. Few organizations covered by
this month’s deadline likely were ready to comply, she says.
The final rule also will detail new patient rights to an electronic
reproduction of their medical record if the facility uses an EHR.
HIM departments will have to draw up policies and procedures
for reproducing the record electronically, which may require
working with vendors to adapt their systems for the task.
More operational challenges are expected in complying with
a provision granting patients the ability to restrict disclosure of
certain medical records to insurance companies if the patients
pay for the services out of pocket.
No one is quite sure how to honor these restrictions within to-
day’s EHR systems, Warner says. “Everyone is talking about it,
and no one has an answer.”
Rhodes notes that managing the restriction in subsequent
transactions with third-party payers presents the ultimate chal-
lenge. Providers must determine how they will identify the data
to prevent inadvertent disclosure later.
Another privacy and security issue to track in 2011 is a final
rule on breach notification. The Office for Civil Rights published
an interim rule in 2009 that took effect in February 2010 and included a controversial “harm threshold” that allowed providers
to report only those breaches it believed could reasonably lead
to harm. A final rule is expected this year.