Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Industry, Educators Team Up on Health IT Training

A $4.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor will lead to the formation of a 25-member team drawn from industry, academia, and government focusing on health information technology (IT) training in communities hard hit by job losses in Southwest Virginia.

“This grant is exciting for several reasons,” says John Provo (right), interim director of Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development. “First, this grant will train health care professionals and help advance the application of medical IT throughout the region. Second, the grant will provide employment opportunities for displaced and underemployed workers and open the door to new career opportunities.”

Called HITE, for Health Information Technology Education, the initiative will target health care workers in nursing, pharmacy, and medical-assistant fields. The grant provides $426,000 to underwrite work at Virginia Tech during the three-year life of the project.

Lance Matheson, associate professor of business information technology in the Pamplin College of Business, will work with five community colleges on curricula to incorporate health IT training. The lead applicant on the grant is Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon. Other community college partners include New River CC in Dublin, and Virginia Western CC in Roanoke. Faculty at the University of Virginia at Wise will support curricula development needs and provide program guidance.

Key to the project’s success is partnership with local health care providers sharing input with the curriculum development advisory committee, Provo says. Industry partners include HCA hospitals Montgomery Regional and Pulaski Community Hospital as well as Carilion Clinic in Roanoke and a number of other hospitals in Southwest Virginia. Each hospital and health system is in various stages of implementing an electronic medical records system, and many will benefit from having employees trained under the grant.

The region’s three Workforce Investment Boards in Roanoke, Dublin, and Lebanon will provide recruitment, assessment, job placement, and other services for the project. Electronic medical records have been promoted for several years as a way to reduce unnecessary procedures, streamline and improve patient care, and improve patient safety, Matheson says.