Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Update on the ONC Health IT Curriculum

In my previous posting, I noted the end was in sight for the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) University-Based Training Grant (UBT) grant from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). This is even more so the case for our other major ONC workforce project, the ONC Curriculum Development Centers (CDCs) program, as the ONC funding portion of this project will end in March, 2013. This program has produced three successive versions of the health information technology (HIT) curriculum for community college programs, and it has had broad use beyond those programs, including our own informatics graduate program at OHSU.

Since the first version of the curriculum, the materials have been available for download from the National Training and Dissemination Center (NTDC) web site. Since the second version, anyone in the world has been able to create a login and download up to the entire curriculum. Technical support has been available for the faculty of the community college consortia.

Even though the ONC funding will be ending, the materials will live on. While there is no funding as of now to support and update the materials, options are being explored. In the meantime, the NTDC web site will be maintained by OHSU for at least one year after the ONC funding ends. In addition, ONC plans to incorporate the materials into its developing National Learning Consortium. Others have moved the materials on to other sites, including one that is turning them into a massive open online course (MOOC).

As the ONC funding is winding down, we are producing the final deliverables of the project. The major last deliverable we are most excited about is a new version of the VistA for Education (VFE) environment that is used as a fully function electronic health record (EHR) for the lab-based components of the curriculum. Based on the VistA EHR of the US Veteran's Administration (VA), the learning curriculum provides both learning to use as well as configure the VistA system for computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system. One of the limitations of this EHR has been the use of a version that requires the commercial Intersystems Cache environment (as is done in operational settings by the VA itself). A new version of VFE has been developed that is based on the open-source GT.M environment (with help from the WorldVistA community). As GT.M runs only in the Linux environment, we have had to develop a virtual machine approach in order for VFE to run on Windows. But we have succeeded at developing this, including an installer that takes the user through all the required steps. The exercises based on VistA from Components 7 and 11 of the curriculum have been revised to run properly with this new version of VistA.

Other project-end deliverables include updating of various materials, including revising the last unit of Component 1 to include coverage of Stage 2 of meaningful use. We were planning to update the materials for the new HIPAA regulations that were supposed to be released in 2012, but those have not come out yet, so will not be in this version of the curriculum.

Overall, the reception of the materials has been gratifying. The NTDC download site has nearly 10,000 registered users. We are currently conducting a survey of those users that we hope to publish in the near future.

Clearly these materials represent a highly worthwhile product funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Even if they do become out of date, they will continue to be directly useful for some time to come, and serve as a foundation for other educators to develop their own curricular materials using ours as a foundation for some time to come.

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