ONC Health IT Workforce Funding Over

But Activity Not

William Hersh, MD, Professor and Chair, OHSU
Blog: Informatics Professor

Although funding from the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act has ended, workforce development efforts continue at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and elsewhere.

Recently, the ONC Health IT Buzz Blog featured two retrospectives on the Workforce Development Program, one from Chitra Mohla, Director of the Community College Workforce Program, and the other from myself. Within her posting, Ms. Mohla linked to the final summative evaluation report of the workforce program, available both as a summary and in its full report. In my posting, I reiterated what the program accomplished from my perspective, and some of the challenges we faced. All of the data point to a successful investment of HITECH funding, both in meeting acute needs and building capacity for the longer term.

Even though funding has ended, there is still good news about the health information technology (HIT) workforce, some of which I have noted in past blog postings. Probably the best news is that job growth has exceeded all predictions, and is unlikely to abate as healthcare organizations need to use their information systems to improve quality and safety while staying economically competitive with their competitors. As I have noted before, the work and skills required will change as the focus of HIT shifts from implementing systems to making best of them, particularly using their data to achieve better health and healthcare delivery.

ONC continues to promote the workforce agenda as well, mainly through the Workforce Subgroup that is part of the ONC Health IT Policy Committee. I have enjoyed being a member of this subgroup, whose current major effort is a focus on trying to get one or more codes for health informatics added to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLC) Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), which is undergoing a revision now for its 2018 release. The value of one or more SOC codes will be to make jobs in the field part of US federal employment statistics.

Informatics will continue to be an important part of healthcare, and to that, careers in informatics will be plentiful and rewarding. Part of the challenge is getting out the word, especially to young people who have had less exposure to the healthcare environment. As such, they may not appreciate the problems in healthcare that informatics addresses and is poised to contribute the solutions.

This article post first appeared on The Informatics Professor. Dr. Hersh is a frequent contributing expert to HITECH Answers.