The UCSD Extension HIT Program prepares students, many embarking on second or third careers, for jobs in the growing field of health IT. Even in the current economic climate, the national demand for HIT professionals is increasing as hospitals and physicians race to implement EHR systems in time to qualify for federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds around health IT adoption. Opportunities are increasing at health IT companies like Medsphere, which has increased its workforce by close to 30 percent in the past six months, as well as at hospitals, community clinics and systems integration and consulting firms.
A proven clinical improvement platform offered for zero license fees to hospitals around the country, OpenVista is an open-source EHR solution derived from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ award-winning VistA system. The VA has invested decades and billions in developing VistA, which has been proven to help reduce healthcare costs and improve safety and quality. Medsphere markets OpenVista as the foundation for a portfolio of clinical transformation services that enable hospitals and integrated delivery networks to dramatically improve patient care and qualify for federal stimulus funding.
Reflecting a real-world project management approach, the three-month-long endeavor equipped 29 UCSD Extension students with project management and health IT deployment experience incorporating proposed “meaningful use” of health IT requirements under ARRA. OpenVista’s ease of use and clinical effectiveness made it an ideal vehicle for teaching and learning.
“Given our current federal stimulus and healthcare reform environment, support from Medsphere and the other community-based faculty were invaluable in ensuring that students leave this program with relevant, marketable health IT skills,” said Leslie Bruce, JD. “Beyond the basic project management knowledge our students will retain, collaboration with Medsphere also exposes them to system configuration requirements associated with meaningful use, which will be very valuable when they start applying for jobs.”
Bruce brings several years experience with advocacy, communications and community relations for UCSD Health Sciences, Sharp HealthCare, the American Heart Association and other San Diego-area organizations to her role as director of healthcare leadership and community outreach at UCSD Extension.
At the end of the three-month project, the UCSD Extension students presented their implementation plan to a panel of health IT experts: Leslie Bruce; Andres Gutierrez, CIO of Family Health Centers of San Diego; Rick Jung, COO of Medsphere; Hugo Villar, director of science and technology for UCSD Extension; and independent health IT consultants J.F. Lancelot, Mark Branning and Tom Gage, who also served as a faculty advisor to the students.
“Medsphere is pleased and proud to support the next generation of health IT professionals by affording free and open access to OpenVista and mentoring UCSD Extension students,” said Michael J. Doyle, president and CEO of Medsphere. “This cooperative, mutually beneficial effort gives UCSD Extension students valuable real-world experience and augments the academic training of prospective employees at Medsphere and a host of other health IT companies that will be fully engaged in the ongoing transformation of healthcare.”
The UCSD Extension HIT Program has made their implementation plan available under a Creative Commons license in Medsphere’s Healthcare Open Source Ecosystem; these licenses allow creators to retain some rights and waive others to benefit a broader community, in this case Medsphere’s Healthcare Open Source Ecosystem, which is oriented around the Medsphere.org Web site. Medsphere introduced students to the Ecosystem so they could join software developers, clinicians, administrators and health improvement enthusiasts as they engage with their peers and share valuable contributions. Although not a health IT jobsite per se, recent grads and job-seekers can showcase their expertise on the Ecosystem in a variety of ways — e.g., blog on healthcare, health IT or open-source topics, help complete a project, answer a question, etc. — and post personal profiles and contact information.