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Region D Director Reports Successful 1st Year

Kay GoodingWINTERVILLE—The director of the Pitt Community College-led Region D Health Information Technology (HIT) Consortium is reporting a successful first year for the 20 community colleges she oversees as part of a federally-funded program that prepares workers to implement electronic health records (EHR).

According to Kay Gooding, Region D Project Director, of the five regional consortia that have been offering newly-created HIT training since September 2010, Region D has enrolled the most students—4,366, or 28 percent of the national total. She also noted that nine of the top 25 colleges with the highest current HIT enrollment are from Region D, which includes states from New Mexico to North Carolina.

Gooding said 82 colleges across the country, including PCC, are offering the six-month HIT training online. Of those schools, she said, four Region D colleges are in the top 20 with regard to the number of students who have completed the program.

In April 2010, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology chose PCC to lead a regional consortium tasked with addressing the growing need for HIT training. Through the project, five universities, including Duke University, developed a six-month curriculum for colleges to provide students with the knowledge, skills and aptitudes needed to use, install and maintain EHRs.

As a result of federal health care reform legislation, all medical records must be converted to an electronic format by 2014. EHRs are expected to improve the quality and efficiency of medical care by making information exchanges possible between health care providers and public health authorities.

To enroll in the HIT training, students must have either a medical or information technology background. Classes are available online, meaning students can access them 24 hours a day without travelling to campus.

“Because this program is focused on students who enter with experience or education in either information technology or health care, it is not surprising to realize that most of the students enrolled are in their 40s or early 50s,” Gooding said. “That gives stability to the workforce and new opportunities for those displaced [from jobs] or seeking alternative careers.”

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (award number 90CC0078), Region D received $10.9 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the first year of training. An additional $9.6 million was made available for a second year, and Gooding said the consortium would be requesting a no-cost extension for a third.

“Because of the cost effectiveness of distance education and with careful planning, the intent of Region D is to seek approval for a third year of training through a no-cost extension,” she said. “That would allow this training to continue through March 2013 to better serve the needs of the health care community in meeting their goals of implementing the Electronic Health Record and meeting meaningful use requirements.”