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Training the trainers: OHSU and community colleges partner in “meaningful use” curriculum development

Bill HershTwo pressing health care reform goals –workforce development and patient care improvement – are being addressed in an unprecedented level of federal investment by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As part of its goal to have electronic health records for everyone in the United States by 2014, HHS has estimated that over 50,000 new health information technology (IT) professionals will need to be recruited and trained to national standards.

In April of this year, OHSU was selected to lead a national consortium of colleges and universities that will develop and deliver much of this training through networks of community colleges. The consortium is funded through a section of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that calls for widespread meaningful use of health information technology in advancing health care outcomes, quality benchmarks and research.

“OHSU is one of five Curriculum Development Centers charged with developing curricula for community colleges to use in training students in informatics and health IT,” said William R. Hersh, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology and principal investigator on the grant. “Using these curricula, each community college will create non-degree training programs that students can complete in six months or less.”

OHSU was also chosen as the National Training and Dissemination Center for the five centers. In addition to developing curricular materials, OHSU will train community college faculty in their use and develop a secure Web site for dissemination of the content. This two-year project will consist of an initial version and two subsequent updates.

Work started on the curricula almost immediately after the grant was announced, and a major milestone occurred in early August with 250 community college faculty and administrators from across the nation meeting in Portland to be trained in use of the first version.

Bill Hersh“Our goals included making available high-quality educational materials reflecting best practice in a rapidly-changing field,” said Charles P. Friedman, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in HHS, who spoke at one of the opening plenary sessions. 

In addition to attending lectures and seminars, attendees received hands-on training for portions of the curriculum involving laboratory exercises. They also received guidance on special issues such as recruiting outstanding students into the field and managing mixed groups of students, some of whose backgrounds may be in IT and some in health care.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Dr. Hersh. “Besides creating health IT jobs in Oregon, this program will help support the adoption of electronic health records and the expansion of health information exchange for Oregonians, giving us additional resources to help accelerate health reform efforts.”

Pictured (Top to Bottom):  Dr. Hersh (r) joins Michelle Murray and Dr. Friedman (l) from the DHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. Delegates at a plenary session conducted by Dr. Friedman, DHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT

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