Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Education for Implementation of Health Information Technology

A thought provoking debate was opened at the Washington Post (April 26, 2009) with publication of an article entitled "End the University as We Know It" by op-ed contributor Mark C. Taylor, chairman of the Religion Department, Columbia University. Dr. Taylor deplores the "division-of-labor model of separate departments" and calls for a new curriculum model structured as a complex adaptive network. In my opinion, as suggested by Dr. Taylor, such a structure would foster interdisciplinary and cross-cultural teaching and research required to face the challenges of the new millennium, including scholarship in the growing field of biomedical informatics. However, it seems unlikely that formal educational programs in biomedical informatics will meet practical workforce needs for development of health information systems in the U.S., particularly in light of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. In 2005, the American Medical Informatics Association created a university-based training curriculum - AMIA 10x10 - designed to present a set of competencies for technology champions acting in their professional settings. The goal of these distance-learning courses is to train ten thousand health care workers by 2010. An evaluation of partner institution OHSU course offerings before the end of 2006 seemed to suggest that support for interaction among participants should be increased, although overall satisfaction with content and process was high. To date, I think only about 2000 participants have completed courses in this program. More generally, the technology champions now active in health care organizations are probably innovators - autonomous learners - working alone or in cross-disciplinary communities of practice, advancing ahead of expensive and rapidly outdated academic curricula. Unfortunately, in the U.S. context there is no national infrastructure to guide these fragmented efforts towards formation of an integrated health information network with standards for interoperability.

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