OGDEN, Utah – The Dr. Ezekiel R. Dumke College of Health Professions has received a $2.5 million “capacity-building grant” to double the size of two high-demand programs: health information technology and health information management.
The money was awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor through its Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program. The grant is called “Health Information Technology Career Mobility.”
“There is a huge need for health information coders since the federal government is implementing a new classification system on Oct. 1, 2014,” said Pat Shaw, health information management program director. “At this same time there is a push for healthcare providers to implement electronic health records. Healthcare providers have incentives to implement electronic records, but they need qualified health information management professionals to help them to do this.”
The coding certificate program can be completed in four semesters or under two years and is ideal for those who are unemployed, underemployed or need advanced skills. The program also reaches out to veterans, spouses of veterans and WSU students.
“We really want to make a difference with those who have looked at Weber State, and thought, ‘I’ll never be able to do that,’ as they drive to their dead-end jobs,” said Frederick Henderson, WSU coordinator of TAACCCT. “This way they can jump right into a great job in healthcare.”
The $2.5 million is budgeted over four years, with the heaviest spending in the first three years. This year’s investments will focus on purchasing and upgrading equipment, hiring faculty and creating more courses for advanced diagnosis and procedure coding, cancer registry management, and clinical documentation improvement. During the second and third year, funds will be spent on instruction. Year four will focus on accounting, reporting and decisions about sustaining the capacity and courses based on student demand.
One main focus will be to enhance the online, hybrid and independent study courses currently available. The grant supports the equipment purchase of three interactive broadcast and remote receiving sites. This interactive video conferencing will allow students in remote areas a virtual, but face-to-face classroom setting. The grant also will allow the department to purchase video-capture equipment, which record lectures and demonstrations that then are readily available to students.
“Online courses are a great option for many students, but they can be isolating,” Shaw said. “I want to take a person who lives in Price or Moab and train them where they are living, so they can remain there and do skilled work. Rural areas need qualified people doing these jobs. These enhancements will make their distance study more engaging and rewarding.”
The grant also will provide the needed capacity for health records and network security coursework offered through WSU’s Network Management Technologies (NTM). Currently, courses in the HIM program teach network security conceptually and highlight its necessity. In NTM courses, students are trained as network managers to use physical and technical safeguards that ensure data and information security.
“Currently they overlap more in the job setting than in coursework, but we hope to have a closer relationship with them in coursework through this grant,” Henderson said.
WSU received letters of commitment from major health information technology employers, including Intermountain Health Care, University of Utah Health Care, Ashley Regional Medical Center, and Mountain Star Ogden Regional Medical Center, as well as letters of support from the State of Utah Workforce Investment Board, the United Way of Northern Utah, the Utah System of Higher Education and WSU’s Veterans Upward Bound program.
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