Back to School: 12 Critical Healthcare IT Workforce Roles Defined by the ONC | Gwen Darling | Healthcare Blogs Skip to content Skip to navigation

Back to School: 12 Critical Healthcare IT Workforce Roles Defined by the ONC

April 13, 2010
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Estimates based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Department of Education (ED), and independent studies indicate a shortfall of approximately 51,000 qualified health IT workers over the next five years. To that end, on Friday, April 2, 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced awards totaling $84 million to 16 universities and junior colleges to help support the training and development of more than 50,000 new health IT professionals.

According to the original funding documents supplied by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), to fulfill the diverse needs of the health care delivery system including support for public health agencies, a total of 12 healthcare IT workforce roles have been identified. Each role will require specific educational preparation. Six roles will require university-based training, and six will require six months of intense training, most likely in a community college or distance-learning setting. Upon graduation, it is anticipated that those trained to fulfill these rolls will be able to support nationwide deployment of certified EHR technology and to provide support for the appropriate and secure use and disclosure of electronic health information to improve health, health care delivery, and protection of individuals’ privacy.

Because this program aims to rapidly increase the availability of individuals qualified to serve in specific health information technology professional roles requiring university-based training, this program will emphasize training programs that can be completed by their enrolled students in one year or less.

Here is the breakdown of the 12 roles identified by the ONC:
(A more detailed description of each role can be found here)

University-Based Training

According to the ONC, this Funding Opportunity is designed to rapidly and sustainably increase the availability of individuals qualified to serve in specific health IT professional roles requiring university-level training. The colleges and universities listed below are charged with promptly establishing new and/or expanded training programs as rapidly as possible while assuring their graduates are well prepared to fulfill their chosen health IT professional roles. Many of these programs can be completed by the trainee in one year or less.

The six roles targeted by this program are:
1. Clinician/Public Health Leader

2. Health Information Management and Exchange Specialist

3. Health Information Privacy and Security Specialist

4. Research and Development Scientist

5. Programmers and Software Engineer

6. Health IT Sub-specialist

The following Colleges and Universities were granted awards for the Program of Assistance for University-Based Training:


Funding Amount

Columbia University


University of Colorado Denver College of Nursing


Duke University


George Washington University


Indiana University


Johns Hopkins University


University of Minnesota


Oregon Health and Science University


Texas State University


Each institution is responsible for recruiting, selecting, and administering any student financial assistance that may be supported under the grant.

Community College Consortia

According to the ONC, academic programs under this Funding Opportunity may be offered through traditional on-campus instruction or distance learning modalities, or combinations thereof.

Training is designed to be completed within six months or less. The programs will be flexibly implemented to provide each trainee with skills and competencies that he/she does not already possess. Training at all Consortium member colleges is expected to begin by September 30, 2010. The anticipated training capacity of the Consortia as a whole is expected to be least 10,500 students annually.

The six roles supported by this program include:

  • Practice workflow and information management redesign specialist
  • Clinician/practitioner consultant
  • Implementation support specialist
  • Implementation manager
  • Technical/software support staff
  • Trainer

In April 2010, the ONC awarded an estimated $36 million in cooperative agreements to five regional recipients to establish a multi-institutional consortium within each designated region. The five regional consortia will include 70 community colleges in total. Each college will create non-degree training programs that can be completed in six months or less by individuals with appropriate prior education and/or experience. First year grant awards are estimated at $36 million. An additional $34 million is available for year two funding of these programs.

Recipients of cooperative agreements (lead awardees):







Lead Awardee of Consortium

Bellevue College

Los Rios Community College District

Cuyahoga Community College District

Pitt Community College

Tidewater Community College

Year 1 Funding Allocation






NOTE: In researching this post, two realizations became extremely apparent:

1. What a daunting task this must have been, can you imagine? “Okay, committee members – all we have to do is identify the critical roles in healthcare IT moving forward and figure out how much it’s all going to cost, how long it should take, and who’s going to do it…”

2. The ONC staff is SUPER responsive and helpful - very good sign. After sending an SOS email for some guidance on where to start (these documents make for fascinating reading, but are a bit wordy – probably like many of my blog posts, eh?) I received a personal email with step-by-step instructions on how to proceed – big thanks to Rachel Nelson!

I’m sure there will be obstacles along the way, but I’m excited about the potential that these Funding Opportunities create. So what can you, as an existing healthcare IT professional, do to participate in your local or regional effort, to ensure that these programs are a success? What immediately comes to my mind is to volunteer to mentor, lecture, and/or provide internship opportunities. Other ideas?

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