Report: ONC’s Workforce Training Program Exceeds Expectations

March 12, 2014 in News

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s Workforce Development Program exceeded projections to bolster the health IT workforce, according to an evaluation by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, FierceHealthIT reports (Hall, FierceHealthIT, 3/11).

Program Details

In March 2010, ONC launched the Workforce Development Program in an effort to train the number of heath IT professionals necessary to help the U.S. transition to an electronic-based health system (Mohla, “Health IT Buzz,” 3/10).

The initiative included four grant programs, which received $118 million in funding under the HITECH Act to train about 51,000 additional health IT professionals (Hersh, “Health IT Buzz,” 3/10). The programs were the:

  • Community College Consortia;
  • Competency Examination;  
  • Curriculum Development Centers; and
  • University-Based Training.

Funding for the programs concluded on Sept. 30, 2013 (FierceHealthIT, 3/11).

About the Study

Researchers at the National Opinion Research Center were commissioned to evaluate the success of all four programs.

Their findings are based on administrative data and site visits, faculty and student surveys, and stakeholder and grantee interviews (NORC report, 3/2014).

Study Findings

The researchers found that as of Sept. 30, 2013:

  • 19,733 individuals in the Community College Consortia had graduated, exceeding its goal of training 10,500 individuals;
  • 9,524 competency exams had been conducted, just short of the 10,000 target;
  • 44,078 unique users created online accounts through the Curriculum Development Centers, downloading more than 187,683 files (FierceHealthIT, 3/11); and
  • 1,704 individuals in the University-Based Training Program had graduated, exceeding its target of 1,684 (Hersh, “Health IT Buzz,” 3/10).  

In a “Health IT Buzz” blog post, Chitra Mohla, director of the Community College Workforce program, noted that the evaluation also found that about six months after program completion:

  • 38% of university students working in health IT received a salary increase;
  • 35% of university students working in health IT had a job or title change;
  • 31% of community college students employed in health IT received a pay increase;
  • 25% of community college students employed in health IT had a job or title change;
  • 24% of university students received a promotion in their health IT job; and
  • 16% of community college students were promoted in their health IT job (Mohla, “Health IT Buzz,” 3/10).

Comments

Mohla applauded the Workforce Development Program and noted that “universities that have implemented the training programs will continue to offer health IT curricula” and that other colleges and universities will be “incorporating health IT training into their programs.”

In a separate “Health IT Buzz” blog post, William Hersh — professor and Department of Medical Informatics Clinical Epidemiology chair at the Oregon Health Science University — noted some limitations to the Workforce Development Program, such as:

  • The program’s quick ramp-up;
  • Difficulty in educating employers about the programs; and
  • Meeting employer expectations for health IT work experience (FierceHealthIT, 3/11).

Despite those issues, Hersh described the project as “a great success” that resulted in “new trained professionals, curricular materials and new certifications for these professionals” (Hersh, “Health IT Buzz,” 3/10).

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