It has been a while since I provided an update of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) Health IT Curriculum Project. I had the opportunity to give a presentation about the curriculum at this week's HIMSS Conference, so will use the preparation for that to give an update here.
The major news from the project is that the third version of the curriculum will be released in the next month. Version 3 will have the same component names and structure, but the content has been substantially revised and improved. In addition, there will be much more consistency of the slide formats as well as file content and naming. The content itself has been revised based on feedback obtained by a variety of mechanisms, including contracting with the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) and expertise they garnered in a process last summer. The materials also have improved accessibility for those with disabilities.
Some have expressed some concern that the project "ends" on April 2, 2012. While it is true that the ONC grant ends on that date, the Web site will continue to be available beyond then. ONC is also considering a no-cost extension of the grants. Stay tuned for more details.
As with Version 2, the Version 3 materials will be made available to the general public. Anyone will be able to go to the Web site of the National Training & Dissemination Center (NTDC) Web site and create a login to enable downloading of the materials.
Other news includes a mention of the curriculum as one of the major accomplishments of ONC for 2011, according to the National Coordinator, Dr. Farzad Mostashsari.
Another useful accomplishment was the addition of a search capability to the NTDC Web site. The search engine allows searching over all text-containing documents. The search engine output allows list the files containing the search terms and allows downloading of the individual file or the unit .zip file that contains the file. The search engine indexed the 1342 Word documents and 460 Powerpoint files and has made them available for word-based searching. (For language trivia buffs, there are 37,485 unique words in these files.)
Additional news about the project includes data about the size of the Version 2 materials as well as download data since its release, including public users.
The entire collection of materials, including the slides, voice-over narration of the slides, and other materials, is 7.84 gigabytes in size. There are a total of 33,172 files. This actually does not include the VA VistA for Education electronic health record system, which has an installer file that is another 770 megabytes in size. VistA requires a license for the Intersystems Cache system, which is freely available to academic institutions but not others. The narration of the slides, available as both Flash-based "video" as well as MP3 audio files, totals 125.6 hours. As noted above, the materials have 1342 Word documents and 460 Powerpoint files. The latter contain a total of 8913 slides.
We also have details about the downloading of Version 2, covering the period from the public rollout to the end of 2011, about one-half year. Before delving into detail about the downloads, it is important to remember the structure and contents of the curriculum. The curriculum consists of 20 components, each aiming to be comparable in size to a three-credit college course. These courses are part of the various workforce roles around which the ONC community college workforce development program is organized, but of course can be used independently either as a whole course or even broken into parts. Each component is broken down into 8-12 units. Each unit contains voice-over-Powerpoint lectures (with transcripts), self-assessment quizzes, and other learning activities (such as discussions and hands-on exercises).
The NTDC web site is structured for downloading by units. The workforce for someone downloading is to create a login (or, in the case of community college faculty users, have a login created, which allows access to additional curricular support) and then navigate through the components to the individual units (packaged in .zip files) for downloading. (We do plan to implement the ability to download entire components in 2012.) Also available for downloading is .zip file containing all the component blueprints (syllabus-like documents) as well as the installer and a help file for VistA for Education.
All told, there were 284,398 downloads of Version 2 units and other files between May-June and the end of 2011. It is important to put this large number in context, which it represents the number of items downloaded. These downloads were carried out by 537 community college faculty and 4680 public users. The public users came from 31 different countries, although the vast majority were from the US. Many of the registering public users did not provide the information the system asked when creating the login, so their background and demographics are not accurately characterized, but browsing of the log shows many educators as well as individuals connected to health care organizations.
The components with the largest number of downloads were Components 3 (22,645), 5 (19,504), and 1 (18,920). The average number of unit downloads per component varied from 2102 for Component 1 to 931 for Component 13. The component blueprints file and VistA for Education installer were downloaded 3255 and 3136 times respectively.
Additional insight can be gained from looking at the minimum and maximum amount of downloads of units within each component. This provides a sense of how many users are downloading one or more units within a component. The minimum number of units downloaded within a component tend to be much closer across the components than the total number of downloads or the maximum. For example, one of the units of Component 5 was only downloaded 925 times, which was not much more than the most minimally downloaded unit of Component 20 (923). This implies that there might be two downloader types: those who take everything for a given component and those who pick and choose.
All told, we are pleased that the ONC Health IT Curriculum has become a substantial global resource. It will be improved with Version 3 that is coming shortly. We are also exploring ways to sustain it beyond the end of the HITECH funding.