Health IT Workers of the Future

August 11, 2010

The federal government has estimated that some 50,000 additional health IT workers will be needed in the next five years to help practices and hospitals digitize healthcare. So where will they come from?

Who helped you implement your EHR? Or, if you’re planning to implement one, do you have the proper IT support?

The federal government has estimated that some 50,000 additional health IT workers will be needed in the next five years to help practices and hospitals digitize healthcare. So where will they come from?

The Oregon Institute of Technology is one organization that has taken steps to address this. I just spoke with Dr. Michael Kishner, director of a new program launched at OIT: a health informatics degree program, which, as he describes it, addresses far more than the traditional IT course.

Health IT workers will be doing more than implementing technology, and this program aims to prepare them for their duties. According to Kirshner, students will learn how to work with the unique end-user (clinicians, administrators, etc.), configure the systems for the specific healthcare setting, and finally, optimize the data available.

I found that final point particularly interesting. EHRs and other health IT applications promise to flood practices with patient data. As more physicians adopt EHRs and more systems are connected through a health information network, data will abound that can - if used properly - lend itself to improving outcomes. So health informatics students are learning to optimize that data through business analytics, data mining, business intelligence, and the like.

As Kirshner put it: “You will be sitting on a wealth of electronic data, so how do you assess quality metrics and provide for meaningful use through quality reporting? How do you do panel management and executive dashboards using evidence-based guidelines with the information you’re sitting on from your patient population?”

Again, it’s not enough to implement the technology - you’ve got to mine and use the data. And programs like this one (and if there aren’t already others, I assume we will start seeing them crop up all over the place) that are starting to address the need you might already be feeling as you implement your EHR and dig into that wealth of data.
 

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