In 2008 I lived in Antigua, West Indies, where I worked for an international private bank, leading their information technology department, which included a newly implemented banking system and business continuity plan. One morning I received a call from Jeff Couch, co-founder and managing partner of Uber Operations, a health information technology company based in Tallahassee, Fla. Right away, he said, “Ed, my health IT company is doing well, we are growing, and we need someone to manage the day to day operations and business development. Are you interested?” I was honored to receive the offer, but, having gone straight from graduate school to working at a bank, I had very little idea of what “health IT “entailed. I spent the next few weeks researching everything available in the health information technology market and quickly realized that this could be an opportunity of a lifetime. Not long after, I agreed to move to Florida and commence a career in a completely new industry. Uncertain as it was, it may have been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. This may also be the time for you to consider health information technology as a profession, as it has never been such an attractive industry filled with diverse people and opportunities.
Health Information Technology Boom
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, abbreviated ARRA and commonly referred to as the Stimulus or The Recovery Act, is an economic stimulus package enacted by the 111th United States Congress in February 2009. Part of ARRA is to increase federal funds for healthcare through the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The ultimate goal of the HITECH Act is to promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology through the creation of a national healthcare infrastructure and through specific incentives designed to accelerate the adoption of electronic health record (EHR) systems among providers. Since the HITECH Act legislation anticipates a massive expansion in the exchange of electronic protected health information, it also widens the scope of privacy and security protections available under HIPAA. Naturally, these acts will generate opportunities to receive education and employment in the health information technology space. More recently, attention has also been placed on the Latino and underserved communities with a letter to the vendor community on health information technology and disparities by Dr. Blumenthal, chief of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). The Obama Administration wants to assure that vendors, universities and providers are doing what they can to lessen the digital divide, specifically in the health information technology space. (Click here for additional resources on health information technology and the digital divide.) Whether sustainable or not, these laws create jobs and resources to learn a new trade; below are several areas to focus on if considering taking up the challenge.
Become an “Expert”
One of the first things I did when accepting my job at Uber Operations was to read as much as I could on the topic. To this day, I read over a dozen articles on a daily basis on health information technology. Even though I was comfortable with technology in general, I knew that the healthcare space was different and it was important for me to understand the terminology and acronyms. In addition to knowing what terms like “HL7” or “EMR” meant, I created a list of web sites that I would regularly visit to keep up with industry news and events, especially those that offer educational webinars (like, for example, this one). Below are a list of web sites and organizations that you should add to your RSS Feed or bookmarks for intel gathering (You can also setup a Google Alert with keywords like: EMR, EHR, NHIN, LOINC, DIRECT, PHINMS, HL7, HIE):
- • The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
• The Direct Project
• Government Health IT
• National eHealth Collaborative
• Life as a Healthcare CIO
• CDC’s Public Health Information Network
• The Health Care Blog
• The Uber Operations Blog
- The National Latino Alliance on Health Information Technology
The HITECH Act has also provides funding for several initiatives that offer wonderful educational and workforce development programs for those interested in getting involved in health information technology. Below are a list of organizations and programs that you could contact.
• Regional Extension Centers (RECs): The RECs offer technical assistance, guidance and information on best practices to support and accelerate healthcare providers’ efforts to become meaningful users of Electronic Health Records (EHRs). They are also hiring resources to support their initiatives. Learn more here.
• Curriculum Development Centers: One component of the Health IT Workforce Program will provide $10 million in grants to institutions of higher education to support health information technology curriculum development. Columbia’s program can be completed online. Learn more here.
• Community College Consortia to Educate Health Information Technology Professionals: Another component of the Health IT Workforce Program seeks to rapidly create health information technology education and training programs at Community Colleges, or expand existing programs. Community Colleges funded under this initiative will establish intensive, non-degree training programs that can be completed in six months or less. Learn more here.
• Competency Examination for Individuals Completing Non-Degree Training: The Health IT Workforce Program also supports the development and initial administration of a set of health information technology competency examinations. The examinations will assess basic competency for individuals trained through short-duration, non-degree health information technology programs, and for members of the workforce with relevant experience or other types of training who are seeking to demonstrate their competency in certain health information technology workforce roles integral to achieving meaningful use of electronic health information. Learn more here.
- Of course, all the book knowledge is great, but at the end of the day, it never hurts to go out and meet your peers. There are organizations that already have a network of experienced professionals. These organizations are forming the foundation for health information technology in the Latino and underserved communities. They are always looking for new volunteers and members. I have met many passionate health information technology experts through my participation in these groups and recommend you visit their web sites to learn more.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments. Late 2008 was my time to take the risk, maybe now is your time.
About Eduardo Gonzalez Loumiet: Eduardo is an award-winning information technology expert, mentor, recognized speaker with more than 9 years managing multi-million dollar enterprise technology projects. He is currently, Managing Director of Uber Operations, a leading health information technology company. Eduardo plays a critical role in the continued development of the company’s strategic growth, including partnership and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility and growth in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace. Since joining Uber Operations, Eduardo has grown the business into a multi-million dollar company with over 20 clients in public and private health care. Continue reading here.
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