With as many as 50,000 new health information technology jobs expected by 2016, both individuals and employers are looking for training programs and certification they can rely on to guide capable new workers into the field.

To meet that need, and provide an entry point for people just starting out in health IT, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has named Bellevue College and its project partner, the Health Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS), to develop a national certification standard along with training curricula that community colleges and high schools across the country can use to prepare learners to acquire that credential.

Funded by a three-year, $509,000 NSF grant, the project partners will define the specific skills health IT technicians will need to be effective in the workplace, develop training curricula in those skills, and establish a standardized process to certify individual competency at that level.

Health care information systems improve the quality of patient care by facilitating the work of medical professionals, reducing medical errors and expediting administrative processes.

Even prior to passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast an additional 50,000 health IT jobs would be created  between 2006 and 2016.

ARRA is accelerating that growth by allocating $19.2 billion to underwrite adoption of health care information systems in all U.S. hospitals and physician practices.

As project leader, Bellevue College will develop, validate and disseminate skills-training curricula for use at colleges and high schools across the nation and also serve as fiscal agent for the grant.

HIMSS will focus on defining the specific skills to be taught and creating the certification standard.

Bellevue College has spearheaded development of the health IT workforce since 2003, when the U.S. Department of Labor chose the college to serve as the Life Science Informatics Center of Expertise for the National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce.

Subsequently, Washington state named Bellevue College to lead development of medical informatics training state-wide, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assigned it to lead a 10-state Health Information Technology Consortium in expanding the field regionally through education and training.

The Health Information & Management Systems Society is the largest health IT professional association in the world, with more than 25,000 individual members, 46 chapters and 350 corporate members who collectively represent organizations employing millions of people worldwide.

Among other activities, HIMSS provides online professional development in many areas of health IT and administers the sole existing certification in the industry:  the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information & Management Systems.

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