HELP IS HERE
FIRST CONSORTIA HEALTH IT GRADS HIT THE MARKET
Last year 82 community colleges launched health IT training programs in a hurry.
After a slow and sometimes bumpy start, the programs are picking up steam and
the students are graduating. Now comes the next test: are the jobs out there?
By Chris Dimick
FRANK LILLO KNEW his field was changing, and he realized he’d have to change with it if he wanted a job. The realization led Lillo, 57, a former manufacturing IT con- sultant, back to school to enroll in the Community College Con- sortia to Educate Information Technology Specialists in Health Care program. Created by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the consortia was designed for students like Lillo. The six-month program offers focused training in six health IT roles with the intent of moving workers with health or IT back- grounds into emerging health-based technology jobs. Lillo had 25 years experience in business analysis, software systems implementation, and project management in the man- ufacturing and distribution industry. But with system imple- mentation work scarce in manufacturing businesses, Lillo knew he had to retool his skills. With health IT booming, Lillo felt it would be a great career shift. He enrolled in the consortia’s practice workflow and infor- mation management redesign specialist track at a local Florida community college. Two months after completing the program, Lillo landed a new job with the South Florida Regional Exten- sion Center helping physician practices implement electronic health record systems. “I like the fact that healthcare is an industry that provides help to people, and I also like the fact that it is a growing industry and provides a great job outlook for me,” Lillo says. The consortia training program launched one year ago this month. In that time, 82 community colleges around the country have offered the six-month health IT training programs. A total of $2 billion was allocated through the federal HITECH Act for health IT programs, including funding for workforce develop- ment programs, like the consortia, intended to address a need for 50,000 more health IT professionals nationwide. While the consortia has had many successes, it’s also faced its share of challenges. An accelerated development schedule—five months from the
first checks to the first class assignments—resulted in a slow
start for the program. The number of students completing the
program during its first year is lower than hoped, but ONC says
the consortia is still on track to meet its goal of training 10,500
health IT professionals by April 2012.
Off to a Slow Start
The first students to complete the consortia program graduated
in March of this year, but the numbers weren’t high. By April just
1,900 students had finished the training.
It wasn’t until this year that completion rates picked up steam.
ONC estimates that 7,000 students will have completed the programs by September 2011, according to Chitra Mohla, director
of the community college workforce program in ONC’s office of
provider adoption support. Many more will be in the pipeline.
ONC expects more than 10,000 students will be enrolled in consortia programs that same month.
The program’s slow start did not reflect a lack of interested students but the effects of its quick launch. With little time to market and develop their programs, the colleges had little time to
recruit students and get them moving through the curriculum.
Region D is one of five regional consortia organized to implement and run the training programs. By the end of June 2011,
only 700 students had completed training at the consortia’s 20
The region is responsible for training 3,300 of the total 10,500
students by April 2012. This seems like a large gap to overcome,
but enrollment in the region rose dramatically through the
spring. By June nearly 3,000 students had signed up for the programs. Region D now expects to have 2,450 students complete
the program by November, according to Kay Gooding, MPH,
MAEd, RHIA, region D consortia project director, based at Pitt
Community College in Greenville, NC.