March 21, 2011

New HIT Resources: How Deep Must Entry Experience Be?

Filed under: EMRs,HIT Workforce Training — HankMayers @ 9:24 pm

I just scanned some posts on a LinkedIn group focusing on the new Workforce Training programs funded by the ONC. Generally, the comments were very critical of the design and assumptions of the program. As I am an instructor at one of the community college, delivering this program, I was struck by how different some of the programs appear to be.

A noted real Achilles-heel to the program is its short duration. While the hours required (classroom time plus readings, plus on-line events, and test taking) is rather substantial (tho the duration is short: 20 weeks or so), the broad array of material means that the graduates will not have great depth on the topics. HOWEVER, I think all of us must get a bit more realistic about the competency levels that should be expected of the new entrants into the HIT field. Healthcare has always been rather demanding over the depth of background it expects of its entrants into the field. HIT staffing has generally had the luxury of acquiring fairly experienced staffing from the served departments or ancillaries within the hospital. For instance, I challenge anyone to find any HIT job posting where the minimum experience level required was less than 3-5 years! And where does one go to get that initial experience?? Frequently, it was vendor or contract personnel that were ready to give up the road.

As I see it, the rapid escalation of demands for HIT resources that we can foresee for the next 3-5 years means that (1) we need to accept that new hires will have lower levels of healthcare experience, and (2) that OJT, combined with more rigorous levels of immediate supervision, is essential to succeed in the coming years.

The ONC-funded workforce training is going to produce a wave of individuals who have a good grounding in how healthcare operates, how HIT is being harnessed (and why) in such places as hospitals and ambulatory practices, and a good starting knowledge base on such things as project management, or work process (especially clinical) engineering, or technical support services, or user training. But these individuals will frequently have limited healthcare experience. [It should be noted that current healthcare employees make up significnat percentages of some of these classes]

If the Lansing, Michigan program is typical, I can also tell you that most of these students are individuals with considerable workplace experience and evident excitement at the prospect of becoming part of their local healthcare delivery system and making HIT projects happen.

The remaining challenge is to plug these high-potential resources into jobs that will both challenge them AND provide them with the kind of resources and guidance that can assure everyone’s success.

I witnessed the remarkable ramping up of non-IT background resources into effective entry-level HIT resources for Y2K software remediation and client-server applications during the late 1990’s. The parallels for the current HIT industry are substantial. If we are not prepared to launch similar efforts within our respective healthcare entities, we face the real prospect of failing to meet the urgent needs of our clinical colleagues.

Comments anyone?


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