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“A common trend [people discuss] is that it seems like the
medical community is not even aware of this program,” Lillo
says. “For those who are looking for jobs, employers are saying,
‘What HITECH program? What training?’
“The powers that be at the government level need to do a good
PR campaign aimed at the provider community to let them
know that they are cranking out these highly trained students,”
Additionally, ONC should make clear that graduates are not
novices, but that they have a background in healthcare or IT that
has been honed specifically for health IT work, Lillo notes.
ONC funded development of a competency exam that helps
students (and others) demonstrate to employers they have
the skills necessary to implement EHRs. The HIT Pro exams,
launched in May, were initially offered free of charge. Colleges
are working to better promote the exams to students, as well as
communicate to employers the competencies that HIT Pro exams test. (For more on the exams, see “Standardized Testing”
beginning on page 28.)
Through this year, ONC and the consortia will be promoting
the program and recruiting students. With the curriculum now
fully developed, ONC will reach out to additional community
colleges interested in adopting the program.
ONC is actively partnering with regional extension centers,
other federal health IT program participants including Beacon
Community members, and state-level health information exchanges to promote both the consortia education program and
“The RECs, for instance, right now have recruited over 81,000
providers across the country to participate in their program.
Letting those participants know that there are community colleges out there that either (a) you can send staff to get the training they need for the job, or (b) look to hire those people coming
out of the program with those skills,” Kendall says. “I think that
is an important network that we are going to be leveraging more
and more as we get going.”
Sustaining the Programs
Federal funding for the consortia will end in April 2012, but
ONC wants colleges to continue their programs.
“What we are trying to do here is set up things that will live be-
yond the ONC funding,” Kendall says. “We see our dollars more
as start-up dollars, getting these community colleges the initial
capital they need to get the programs going. But the real test of
this is how they can sustain into the future.”
ONC has offered a no-cost extension for up to 12 months to
colleges wishing to continue in the consortia.
Many of the colleges have discussed continuing the training
programs beyond April 2012, even sharing resources and curriculum updates.
“For employers, we want them to know that this is not a short-time, two-year deal for us,” Morganti says. “This is building a
workforce in region C, and we are going to continue to do that.” ¢
Chris Dimick ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is staff writer at the Journal of