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Innovation Exchanges for Healthcare Stakeholders and IT Folks

Posted on September 6, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

Health IT is revolutionizing healthcare in front of our eyes. Every other day, you hear about yet another device or app that measures various aspects of your health, reports findings to doctors. Some of the biggest names in the business world have entered the healthcare market or at least experimented with it (sorry, Google Health, better luck next time). Between HITECH, HIPAA and the monetary implications of the Affordable Care Act, there’s a governmental push for HIT as well, which in some ways bestows an immediacy (and dollars) to health IT.

To regular IT people, health IT looks like a great industry to be in. Healthcare is generally considered recession proof, there’s ample opportunity for innovation, and there’s a certain democratization in how health is managed – an iPhone app can do what your optometrist did, and while you’re never going to be able to write yourself a prescription for sunglasses, there’s a lot more you can know about your health compared to 10 years ago.

And yet, here’s the secret. Not many IT folks know how to make the jump to health IT. I get this question all the time – how do *I* make the switch to healthcare IT? To me at least, it looked as if the best thing would be to network with healthcare industry people, and figure out a way to segue inwards. Clearly there’s a shortfall of health IT professionals (and the paradoxical personal experiences that the newly minted health IT certified folks face – not being trained on vendor specific software is making it difficult to get jobs, but that’s another topic for another day.)

That’s why I’m particularly enthused by what’s coming from the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). ONC is spearheading Innovation Exchanges as part of the White House Startup America initiatives. The idea for the exchanges is to bring together healthcare stakeholders with developers and others from the IT world, so they can work together from early stage idea innovation right through to the concrete realization of these ideas.

If you’re someone with a good health IT idea in proof-of-concept stages or even someone just breaking into the health IT market, here’s a great chance to test out the waters with healthcare people who are as eager to strike up collaborations with IT folk. Health 2.0 Conferences are scheduled in San Francisco, Indianapolis and the New England area.

Finding Jobs for ONC Workforce Program Participants

Posted on August 25, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In response to my post about the ONC Workforce program, I got sent the following message:

I have also completed the ONC Workforce Program. Ms. Feldman is not exaggerating about its difficulty, though my program did not have assignment deadlines. Her comments prove to be another verification that the programs present the standard materials differently. We were told that the course work would take 15-20 hrs/wk, but found we had to double that to complete within 6 months (and work around the high attrition from instructors). When she mentions spelling errors, and missing or duplicated material, it may sound trivial until one sees the extent of the errors. In May, a “corrected” version of the material was released, however. I don’t know the extent of improvement because I completed the program with the beta version.

Perhaps worth discussion is the fact that there are few internships and NO positions that want HITECH graduates without Epic, NextGen, Allscripts, or GE Centricity experience. These vendors do not have classes/seminars on their software, except for facilities who have purchased their product.

When added together, I believe the Workforce Development Program has put people through an enormous amount of pressure, lost many capable people along the way (7000 entered, 2280 completed, according to ONC) and, because back-end gaps for transitioning into entry-level HIT positions exist, we are unable to gain entry to the fastest growing segment for the labor force. That helps nobody.

My heart definitely goes out to these people who’ve gone through the courses and can’t find the jobs. I was particularly taken back by the comment in the middle about there being no positions that want HITECH graduates without the specific EHR experience. Although, I think that might be location specific. Or maybe I just got lucky getting my first job in the EMR world without any EMR experience. I still remember when they asked me to tell them about my experience in healthcare and I responded, “I’ve been to a doctor.” So, there are exceptions, but you have to find them.

I took a few looks at the jobs listed on my EMR and EHR jobs board. Based on past postings, I can definitely say that it’s competitive to apply for an EMR job. Even if there’s a real need for a well trained healthcare IT workforce. I’m not sure if that’s a function of a down economy shifting many workers into healthcare or what.

I welcome other ONC Workforce Program participants to share their experiences in the comments. What have you found that works? Where can other graduates look for EMR and healthcare IT related jobs? I’ll be interested to hear your stories and suggestions.

First Hand Description of ONC HIT Workforce Programs

Posted on August 22, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m still very intrigued by the ONC’s Health IT workforce programs. Turns out, it’s been a really popular topic on this site too ever since I posted about the HIT Pro Competency Exam.

I added that post to LinkedIn (Join the HealthcareScene.com EMR Group on LinkedIn) and a lady named Beth Feldman offered this fascinating first hand description of her experience with the Health IT Workforce Program:

…it is exhaustive. We actually took the 17 courses in 8 months. Our program started late and there were glitches along the way. They gave us extensions because of the glitches and the mountains of discussions and exercises. Also one course was due the Monday evening 2 days after Saturday, Christmas day and we were still being given new course work and had to study for 3 finals. We were not given one course in it’s entirety and the VistA program never worked properly no matter how hard they tried to give it to us, so that hands-on experience related to the homework couldn’t be completed.

It is quite a robust, voluminous and difficult program given in such a short amount of time.
The quality control of the audio, the ppt without the notes, the spelling errors, etc. was not done.
I am taking the Practice Workflow….exam this Saturday and even though we took 17 courses, 1.5 of the courses we were never given to us so I’ve had to take those now in order to qualify for the second free voucher.

My next exam, Trainer, has 7 courses as well and I will have to learn another course we were not given.
I love the material but it’s a shame we had so little time to actually learn/own it.

Certainly we all know that the course was thrown together really quickly. So, I think things like spelling mistakes are reasonable. However, it’s really unfortunate that they don’t have access to the software they need to really train.

In fact, just today I was reading comments on another LinkedIn thread where students and teachers in the program were talking about their inability to get EHR vendors to provide them a demo EHR system for their students to learn. I pointed out a few possibilities for them to consider (there are 300+ EMR Companies to choose from), but it’s really unfortunate that they training programs don’t have the EHR software they need.

Her description of the homework and coursework also remind me how glad I am not in school anymore. This blogging gig is much better than the PhD program I was considering.

New EHR Vendor Program for Health IT Work Force Development Program Students

Posted on August 4, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

EMR Thoughts has had a lot of students from the Health IT Work Force Development programs coming to the site after I did my post about the HIT Pro Competency Exam. One of the most common complaints I’ve heard from these students is how do they get experience working on an EHR system. Many are even willing to work for free to gain experience and they say they can’t find anyone who will teach them.

These discussions is why I found a new Certification Program for HITECH IT Workforce Program members from iChartsMD so interesting. Certainly there is a specific EHR vendor (in this case iChartsMD) behind this certification, but depending on how they structure the program it could provide these students some first hand experiences using that EHR. For those who don’t have any EHR experience this might be a great move for them.

I also can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a great way for iChartsMD to find smart people that they can hire into their company in implementation and support roles. I’m sure many of these HITECH workforce program participants would welcome a job working for an EHR vendor. Seems like a decent win win to me.