University of Texas at Austin officials are touting their first-in-the-country learning laboratory for health information exchange, the newest addition to the school's nine-week health IT certification program.
The health information exchange laboratory
, launching this week, gives students hands-on training with information exchange software and allows them to watch real-time transfers of patient records in a simulated environment, Leanne Field, the university's director of public health, medical laboratory science and information technology programs, said in an interview.
"It provides students with real-world experience that they can take into the workplace," Field added.
The exchange laboratory is just one element of UT-Austin's interactive training curriculum for health IT. Students in the program also take advantage of a Health IT Learning Center that allows them to work directly with six electronic health-record systems, as well as a telemedicine system. Field credits the program's success to the university's partnerships with industry. “I think that's what sets us apart,” she said.
In 2009, the Austin-based Texas eHealth Alliance approached the university about developing a training program that would better prepare students for the health IT workforce. Field and several other partners also applied for and secured funding through the Office of the National Coordinator's Health IT Workforce Development Program.
The full-time program, now offered three times a year, graduated its first group of students—and first group of students from any ONC-funded program—in July 2010, Field said. Enrollees include recent college graduates, IT professionals who want to learn more about healthcare and clinicians interested in IT.