Health Information Technology Program Receives $2.7 Million in Federal Funding, Graduates First Class of Students This Summer

The University of Texas at Austin's new Health Information Technology program has received $2.7 million as a part of the Professional University Resources and Education for Health Information Technology (PURE HIT) consortium project supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology.

Summer Health IT Certificate students
Health IT Certificate students participate in a mock clinic in the learning laboratory at the Clinical Education Center at University Medical Center Brackenridge. From left to right: Sean El Haj, Sachin Chopra and Dustin Murders. 

The program graduated its first class of 54 students this summer.

"Our first graduates are really impressive," says Dr. Leanne Field, director of the program. "They are entering a field that is rapidly growing and will only continue to gain importance as we move toward electronic health records across the country. The industry demand is very high."

Texas State University is the lead institution for the PURE HIT consortium and the University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics is also a partner. Total funding for the consortium is $5.4 million, the largest award in the nation funded for university-based education in health information technology.

The University of Texas at Austin certificate program is the first in the nation among those receiving ONC health information technology funding to graduate students.

At the university, the funding will support the establishment of a total of four programs in the health information technology field:

  • the summer Health Information Technology Certificate for recent graduates,
  • a Health Information Privacy and Security certificate for computer science students,
  • a Public Health Informatics certificate for public health students, and
  • a Health Information Technology Sub-Specialist certificate for graduate students.

"A groundbreaking transformation is occurring in the delivery of health care in the United States," says Field. "The College of Natural Sciences and the School of Biological Sciences are rapidly responding to this need."

The summer certificate program is nine weeks of intensive study training students in fundamental concepts in health information technology, project management and workflow redesign, operational models of health care practice and skill development in the use of various electronic health record systems.

Students are given opportunities to enhance their professional communication and career development skills. Graduates of the program are awarded a certificate as a "Health Information Manager and Exchange Specialist."

Students gain experience in the Health Information Technology Learning Laboratory at the Clinical Education Center at University Medical Center Brackenridge, a member of the Seton Family of Hospitals. They also engage in a two-week practicum with Texas-area e-health companies.

For example, students in their practicum this summer at the Gulf Coast Regional Extension Center in Houston were deployed by Dr. Kim Dunn to a local nonprofit clinic called Shalom that relied completely on paper health records. The students were given one day to overhaul Shalom's system for monitoring patients with diabetes. They created a new database system for the clinic to add patients and track their health over time.

"The situation in the field right now is really poor," says Daniel Fritz, one of the summer program graduates who interned with Dunn. "These health clinics really need major changes, but if you really sit down and think about the problem you can come up with a solution. We started that day with nothing and came away with something great."

The students were particularly effective because they had gained skills using six different electronic health record systems donated by industry partners, including Allscripts, eClinicalWorks, e-MDs, Inc., GE Healthcare, NextGen Healthcare and Sage.

A full list of industry partners is online.

The summer certificate program has also benefited from major support and collaboration from key players in the e-health industry and nonprofits, including Seton Family of Hospitals, the Texas e-Health Alliance, the TMF Health Quality Institute and the Texas Medical Association.

"We couldn't have accomplished this without the incredible support from these partners," says Field.

Learn more about the summer certificate program.