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Posted: 4/14/2010

Community colleges will soon have the capacity and ability to educate much-needed health information technology (HIT) workers.  Using a new six to 12 month informatics curriculum developed at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) and deployed throughout the U.S., local colleges will have access to high-quality HIT educational programs, while helping their instructors supplement their own level of knowledge.  

The curriculum will be developed at the new JHUSON Curriculum Development Center in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Schools of Nursing, Medicine, Public Health, and Business, as well as four community college partners: Harford Community College, Bel Air, MD; Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, MD; Howard Community College, Columbia, MD; and the Community College of Baltimore County, MD.  An advisory board will also include academic HIT experts and representatives from HIT employer groups.

"Anyone who takes these HIT courses in their local communities will have the benefit of a rigorous curriculum, built by high-level university experts.  Geography is irrelevant; no matter where the students are located, they will be able to access high quality training," says associate professor Patricia Abbott, PhD, RN, FACMI, FAAN.

The Center is funded through a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. economic stimulus package (ARRA) Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act grant made to Abbott.  Her co-investigator on the grant is Harold Lehmann, MD, PhD, associate professor at the JHU School of Medicine.

A second $3.75 million ARRA HITECH grant will be led by Lehmann, with Abbott and Jonathan Weiner, PhD, professor at the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health, who are co-investigators.  The team will collaborate to develop the JHU Health IT Workforce Training Program which will create post-baccalaureate HIT programs in all three schools.   The School of Nursing plans an eight-month certificate program in Applied Health Informatics, where students will earn 13.5 academic credit hours which may be applied toward a master's degree. 

The two grants, totaling more than $5.5 million, create a unique interdisciplinary, team-centered approach to resolving work force shortages in HIT.  "Collaborating on the Curriculum Development Center and the University-Based Training Program at the same time will create a great HIT synergy here at Hopkins," notes Abbott. 

She adds, "Despite mounting evidence that electronic health records (EHRs) have the power to transform healthcare, many hospitals, clinicians, and others aren't using them," says Abbott.  The shortfall of HIT workers -- approximately 50,000 -- is a major barrier to HIT adoption.  We're doing our part to prepare and train this desperately-needed workforce."