Modernizing the health care industry isn’t as easy as it may be in some other industries. For one thing, according to Stephen Burrows in his article for Healthcare IT News, health care CIOs have trouble finding qualified people to work on their IT teams.
Says Burrows, most health care IT (HIT) departments are staffed largely with people who started out as nurses, physicians or therapists. They have no formal IT training. As a result, they have a deep knowledge and understanding of the health care industry and its myriad challenges, but not enough about information technology. Their lack of formal training makes them less effective and reliable in their new careers than they may have been in their previous ones.
As a discipline, health care information technology or informatics is starting to catch on in U.S. colleges and universities. For example, the St. John’s University College of Professional Studies offers Healthcare Informatics as a major course of study. Students who take it could graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree and would be required to study things like Healthcare Database Management, Introduction to Health Services Administration, The U.S. Health Care System and Data Mining among others. Champlain College offers a bachelor’s degree program in health care informatics that is 100% online. Colleges and universities have started offering health care informatics at the graduate level as well.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has implemented a Health IT Workforce Development Program to which the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has allocated $116 million to facilitate health information technology training. The grants are expected to help more than 1,500 people to attain master’s degrees or certificates of advanced study in health IT. Included in the ONC’s Workforce Development Program allocation was a $6 million, two-year grant to “fund the development of competency exams for health IT professionals.”
Without skilled teams to help them, health care CIOs can’t move their organizations forward effectively. And implementing electronic health records and cloud solutions becomes a much more difficult and time consuming task to complete.