EHR implementation could be hurt by shortage of IT professionals

October 19, 2011

Who are you going to hire to help implement and maintain your increasingly sophisticated electronic health record systems over the next few years? Depending on where you live, that could be a real challenge, according to the American Health Information Management Association. The group warns that, in many parts of the country, no one will be available without concerted training and incentives. Find out what's being done to increase the supply of trained professionals for practices such as yours.

Who are you going to hire to help implement and maintain your increasingly sophisticated electronic health records over the next few years?
That could be a real challenge, according to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), which says that, in many parts of the country, no one will be available without concerted training and incentives.
Announcing several new initiatives to “create the estimated 40,000 jobs required to properly build and maintain a national electronic health records [EHR] initiative,” AHIMA singled out its partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and North Shore Medical Labs based in Williston Park, New York, to address healthcare disparities in underserved communities in Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina.
In the demonstration project, AHIMA will provide 6 hours of free Web-based training in health information technology (IT) to providers in the three states’ underserved communities. North Shore will donate 75% of the cost of training, EHR licenses, and subscription fees for 100 providers for a year through Nortec Software, Inc. Nortec will also integrate physicians’ current practice systems with the new IT components required for the EHR software.
To participate in the program, physicians must:

practice in a medically underserved area (MUA) or health provider shortage area (HPSA) designated by HHS,

use an electronic billing system and have an Internet connection,

be part of a practice with between one and five providers or a federally qualified health center within the MUA or HPSA,

be eligible for “meaningful use” incentives, and

submit an application and monthly reports.

In addition to the demonstration project, AHIMA announced a legislative agenda designed to form the “cornerstone of effective job creation in the health information management [HIM] profession” through tax credits to employers who provide additional training to HIM professionals to work effectively in an EHR environment. This initiative “supports the employment and re-employment of tens of thousands of health information management professionals, who are, in many cases, already educated and properly credentialed,” said Bonnie Cassidy, MPA, RHIA, president of AHIMA.

The organization also is advocating for expanded and funded baccalaureate and graduate-level education of HIM professionals, with incentives to participating colleges and universities as well as scholarships for students to increase the number of HIM professionals.

Physicians interested in participating in the demonstration project may contact Bill Rudman, PhD, RHIA, executive director of the AHIMA Foundation, at Bill.Rudman@ahima.org, or Abid Sheikh, CEO of North Shore Medical Labs, at asheikh@nsmlonline.com.

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