Community College Health IT Training Programs Receive Second-Year Funding

Susan Hall
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Key Health Care IT Trends

The good news is that primary focus now seems to be squarely on improving the overall quality of health care and the reduction of human errors.

In December, I interviewed Dr. Julie Jacko, head of the consortium of Minnesota universities that won federal funding for training programs in health care IT. That money was part of the federal stimulus package. The programs in health informatics train people new to the intersection of IT and health care-they might come from one field or the other, but not both. And they offer free tuition (what a deal!)


The federal government's push for electronic medical records continues, as does its training initiatives at the community college level as well. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently announced that community colleges will receive $32 million to continue training for a second year.


During the first year, community colleges received $36 million in grants to develop or improve non-degree health IT training programs that students can complete in six months or less. There are 70 participating community colleges in all 50 states. You can find a list of them here.


In a letter, the national coordinator, Dr. David Blumenthal, said the first 3,400 students from the community college program will graduate by May with excellent job prospects. He projects a shortage of 50,000 specialists in this area. He added:

We remain on track to ramp up and graduate an estimated 10,500 students a year through our community college programs.

A recent study by management consultancy Hay Group bears out the difficulty that hospitals are having in filling these positions. In a November survey of 65 large complex hospitals and health systems, 47 percent of respondents reported challenges with recruitment, retention or both in newly created health informatics positions. Also:


  • 82 percent said these positions are designed to be full time, rather than contractors or consultants.
  • 96 percent have begun to create these positions and structure these departments.
  • 32 percent, the largest group, report that they are one to two years into the process.
  • Organizations reporting that they have completed the process of building EMR capabilities and have staffed their departments said it took an average of 44 months.

Yet, it appears that in doing so, many of these hospitals have been flying by the seat of their pants. Said Dan Mayfield, a consultant with Hay Group:

Nearly every health care client I have recently spoken with has clinical informatics positions, and seemed to have created them without much direction or structure. Due to the lack of benchmark data and an understanding of best practices, there has been a lot of improvising. Having a resource available to better understand the market for clinical informatics positions will help our clients greatly as they adapt and adjust going forward.

Hay Group is collecting data about recruitment and compensation for these health informatics positions, with results to be made public in July.

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