UBT Program: Preparing the Health IT Leaders of Tomorrow, Today

Alicia Morton | May 12, 2011

The modernization of health care through information technology calls for a much larger workforce than the one we currently have that will be required to help providers and hospitals make meaningful use of health information technology (health IT) including electronic health records (EHRs).  In fact, there is a projected shortfall of approximately 51,000 qualified health IT workers over the next four years.

The Program of Assistance for University-Based Training (the UBT program), one of four initiatives within ONC’s Workforce Development Training Program, is helping to prepare the qualified health IT leaders of tomorrow, today.

Building a Skilled Workforce

The health care environment is quickly evolving, and the UBT program, along with ONC’s other three complimentary health IT workforce initiatives, is helping ensure that the health IT workforce not only grows but also evolves to keep pace with it.  Nearly 1,700 people will receive certificates of advanced study or master’s degrees in health IT over the course of the 39 month UBT program. This is certainly a significant accomplishment in its own right, but it is important to keep in mind that it is merely a down payment on meeting the projected health IT worker shortfall.  More UBT graduates, as well as professionals benefiting from ONC’s other health IT workforce programs, are also in the pipeline to help fill the demand for these professionals.  These individuals will help form the nationwide support system essential to creating and maintaining a health IT infrastructure that will improve the quality, safety, and effectiveness of care.

About the UBT Program

The UBT program is designed to rapidly and sustainably increase the availability of individuals qualified to serve in specific health IT professional roles (see below) requiring specialized training at the post-baccalaureate level.

Through this program, institutions of higher education were awarded one-time grants, totaling $32 million nationwide, to assist in the creation and expansion of post-baccalaureate certificate and/or master’s-level health IT training programs. Using a significant portion of this grant funding, these institutions are able to offer financial support for tuition, including a limited number of stipends, for qualified UBT students.

The nine colleges and universities that were granted UBT awards are:

  1. *Columbia University Exit Disclaimer (Cornell University Exit Disclaimer)
  2. University of Colorado Denver College of Nursing Exit Disclaimer
  3. *Duke University Exit Disclaimer (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Exit Disclaimer)
  4. George Washington University Exit Disclaimer
  5. Indiana University Exit Disclaimer
  6. Johns Hopkins University Exit Disclaimer
  7. *University of Minnesota Exit Disclaimer (College of St. Scholastica)
  8. Oregon Health & Science University
  9. *Texas State University Exit Disclaimer (University of Texas at Austin Exit Disclaimer and Houston Exit Disclaimer)

*Four of these universities are leading consortia, which means each is jointly working with the institutions listed in italics to achieve the objectives of its UBT grant.

Many of these universities offer distance-learning options, and the majority of these programs are structured to be completed in one year, to meet immediate health IT workforce needs.

Under the UBT initiative, students will be highly trained to fulfill one of the following six health IT workforce roles:

1. Clinician or Public Health (Informatics) Leader

Experienced clinical or public health professionals completing training in health will be able to lead the successful deployment and use of health IT to achieve transformational improvement in quality, safety, outcomes, and thus in the value, of health services.

2. Health Information Management and Exchange Specialist

Professionals trained for this health IT role will support the collection, management, retrieval, exchange, and/or analysis of information in electronic form, in health care and public health organizations.

3. Health Information Privacy and Security Specialist

Professionals trained in this role will be uniquely qualified to assess and address the unique privacy and security challenges of health IT. It is anticipated these graduates will serve as institutional/organizational information privacy or security officers.

4. Research and Development (Informatics) Scientist

Combining their extensive expertise and UBT program health IT training, these professionals will support efforts to create innovative models and solutions that advance the capabilities of health IT, conduct studies on the effectiveness of health IT and its effect on health care, and educate future health IT professionals.

5. Programmers and Software Engineer

Typically experienced engineers and/or computer scientists, these professionals , upon completion of UBT program health IT training, will be qualified to be architects and developers of advanced health IT solutions.

6. Health IT Sub-specialist

These professionals will combine UBT program-acquired health IT knowledge with their extensive professional training and experience in disciplines such as business, ethics, economics, and cognitive physiology, to support the adoption and meaningful use of health IT.

How are UBT students selected?

With a relatively small number of training positions funded at each UBT awardee institution, the admission process can be competitive. The purpose of this grant is to increase the number of highly qualified health IT professionals, and as such, UBT grant-supported training positions are not available to current health IT students or individuals who have previously completed formal training in health IT. However, because the grants are designed to create and expand these critical health IT training programs, all of these institutions now have the capacity to provide the same training to students who are not eligible for the UBT funded training positions.  So, there are more opportunities than ever to get trained through UBT!

Those interested in applying for these in-demand, cutting-edge programs should directly contact one of the UBT grantee institutions mentioned above.

For more information

Visit: http://healthit.hhs.gov/universitytraining