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Workforce and Regional Extension Center Challenges in HITECH Act

Posted on November 10, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I just read one of the best blog posts I’d read in a long time. So much so that I just had to post part of it a link to it on my site. The post is called “Far From Shovel-Ready” by Anthony Guerra. I think you all should go and read the entire post. It’s well thought out and well written. I don’t know Anthony Guerra personally, but our paths have regularly crossed on the internet. I hope one day to have the pleasure of meeting him (maybe at HIMSS?).

His blog post starts out with this statement, “Legislation that took weeks to write will wreak havoc for years.” I’m not quite as certain as Anthony that it WILL wreak havoc. However, I’ve been warning of the possibilities of problems for a while now.

He describes the main points of his post like this:

My unpalatable HITECH morsel of the moment centers, generally, around the lack of healthcare IT workforce necessary to make the legislation’s goals a reality and, more specifically, the bizarre market dynamics that will be precipitated by the half-baked Regional Extension Center (REC) farce.

You can read the article for the rest of the details. However, those interested/worried/concerned about the workforce shortage in healthcare IT will enjoy this part of the article:

This means the fight for healthcare IT talent, which everyone agrees is heating up, will get doubly vicious, with hospitals, large practices, vendors and consultancies — and now 70 RECs — competing on what will be an uneven playing field for scarce talent.

Why uneven? Because the RECs will be able to pay fantasy wages, taxpayer funded wages, to woo the cream of your healthcare IT workforce.

At the recently held annual CHIME conference, I spoke to the CEO of a boutique HIT consultancy who said he, “needed 50 people TODAY,” but had no idea where they would come from. John Glaser, Ph.D., CIO at Partners Healthcare and senior special advisor to ONCHIT, recently wrote that those who employ healthcare IT talent must be sure their wages are fair and their work fulfilling, as poaching season is fast approaching.

Timeframes to Implement an EMR and the EMR Regional Extension Centers

Posted on October 14, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I quoted this CIO in my previous post about EMR Motivations, but I also thought that Neal Ganguly provided some interesting analysis of the time frames involved with selecting, implementing and using an EMR. Plus, he takes it one step further and adds in the time frames to get the EMR regional extension centers in place as well. Check out the EMR timelines:

Hospitals / Physicians: It can take 3-6 months to evaluate and select a system and then it takes 18-24 months to install a hospital clinical system. It takes 2-5 months to properly install a physician EMR. It can take 6-12 months or more to work out the kinks and become productive on such systems.

The talent pool to accomplish this work is spread thin. Hence the extension center concept. However, it can take 3-6 months to establish centers operationally (find space, recruit staff, establish curriculums, etc), and then 3-6 months to recruit and train people to a reasonable standard to make them minimally effective. So optimistically, it would be 6-12 months from inception before the first trained individuals emerge from those centers – and really, 12-24 months before they have some of the real life experience needed to be effective.

It really struck me when Neal compared the time to get a regional extension center going and their inability to really support those interested in ARRA stimulus money.

Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers

Posted on August 26, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, has been putting out some letters about HIT and EHR in particular. In his latest letter he talks about the recent announcement of the HIT Regional Extension Centers designed to assist and help with the implementation, selection and use of EHR software. Here’s a portion of his letter:

Key to the successful adoption and meaningful use of EHRs is the assurance that providers have the help and guidance they need to select, implement and maintain a certified EHR system. In addition, we need the various and often disparate local, statewide and regional systems to work together, regardless of location and differing state and federal standards or policies, to enhance patient care.

Toward that end, the first grant program, the Health Information Technology Extension Program, will fund dozens of Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers across the country. The regional extension centers will offer hospitals and clinicians hands-on technical assistance to support meaningful use of certified EHR systems. These modern health IT centers could be considered as somewhat akin to the agricultural extension centers Congress set up early in the 20th century, which helped to support vast improvements in the efficiency, quality and productivity of the agricultural sector.

We hope this 21st century health IT extension program will have a similarly profound effect in helping health care providers through a major transition in our nation’s health system, ultimately improving the quality, efficiency, reliability, availability and equity of care for every American.

A national Health Information Technology Research Center (HITRC) will also be created. The HITRC will help the regional centers collaborate with each other, and it will serve as a national clearinghouse to identify and share best practices and experiences so that providers can learn from what others have gone through as they’ve put such systems in place.

You can read more about the details of the grant program on Chilmark’s post about the grant money.

Honestly, I look at all the millions of dollars that they’re going to pour into these programs and I wonder if any of them will have any real impact. They have to all be non profit organizations which is probably a good thing. However, I won’t be surprised if smart people find ways to siphon off the money given to these organizations for themselves. Maybe that’s the cynic in me. Maybe it’s just the reality of grant money.

I do like that they’re having a national organization that will hopefully aggregate data from the various regional extension centers. I think the problem will be that the national organizations won’t have any teeth to be able to ensure that the regional extension centers to do their job and share the information.

I’m hopeful that I’m wrong. I’m really interested to see the types of resources that come out of these centers. They should be creating a lot of really great stuff and helping lots of people. I’ll be interested to see which organizations get the grants. Will they be new or existing ones?