Gwinnett Technical College and the Georgia Institute of Technology, partners in the Atlanta Health Information Technology (HIT) cluster, have been awarded a $1.65 million grant to enhance the state's capabilities in this sector. Gwinnett Tech's role will be to develop and offer a one-year certificate program for college credit in health information technology, specifically designed to help veterans, the underemployed and those unemployed enter the fast-growing HIT field.
Partial funding from the grant will also provide tuition assistance for both veterans and non-veterans. The program is projected to begin in summer 2012.
Health information technology (HIT) is the umbrella term used to describe the comprehensive management of health information across computerized systems and its secure exchange between all users. HIT is increasingly viewed as the most promising tool for improving the overall quality, safety and efficiency of the health delivery system.
Gwinnett Tech's "Feet on the Ground" program will provide industry-designed training to prepare graduates for employment as skilled coders for any type of ambulatory office, in-patient facility or for government or healthcare vendors. Other employment options include software development, medical and healthcare sales, customer service and support, HIT training and computer networking.
"This grant and the resulting 'Feet on the Ground' program is great news for our veterans, those unemployed and underemployed, and individuals eager to enter the rapidly growing field of health information technology," said Gwinnett Tech President Sharon Bartels. "HIT is a growing sector where there are jobs – for those with the right skills and training. The program Gwinnett Tech will develop will help fill this unmet need for a skilled workforce and connect job seekers with employers."
The Atlanta area is often referred to as the world capital of health information technology. The Georgia-based HIT sector employs some 15,000 people in the state and the sector's primary businesses are growing at a 40 percent rate, reports the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
"The "Feet on the Ground" curriculum will be designed in concert with employers to meet statewide workforce needs and will include coursework in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, medical procedures and coding, and ambulatory and in patient electronic health records," explains Mary Beth Byerly, vice president of institutional advancement, Gwinnett Tech.
Byerly also notes that the certificate program will be a "great stepping stone for further education. Students desiring an associate's degree and beyond in health information technology may choose to take more rigorous courses where required."
This fall, Gwinnett Tech launched a two-year associate degree program in Health Information Technology. The program was launched with the help of $75,000 in support from Cisco, which will underwrite a HIT faculty member and aid in the development of HIT curriculum components identified by industry.
The HIT grant proposal is funded by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA). The HIT industry in Georgia has provided in kind donations and offered its support for the hiring of program graduates. The initiative is part of the federal government's Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a tri-agency competition initiated to support the advancement of 20 high-growth, regional industry clusters. The Atlanta HIT cluster's proposal was one of 20 selected from 125 applicants.
"Our ultimate goal is simple – to achieve higher-quality, lower-cost and more patient-centric healthcare throughout Georgia," said Steve Rushing, director of Health at the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), who will serve as the HIT general advisor for the integrated project plan. "Through extensive collaboration and partnerships, this initiative leverages existing resources to boost job creation through technology deployment, and thus economic development."
Georgia Tech will use its funds to create an Interoperability lab to test and evaluate cutting-edge health information technology software innovations originating from industry, researchers, faculty and students, inventors and other sources. Georgia Tech will also supply technical assistance and access to financial resources to traditionally underserved businesses and economically distressed areas of the state.
GTC offers more than 50 degree, diploma and certificate programs that can be completed in two years or less, over a dozen in health sciences alone. For more information, visit www.GwinnettTech.edu or call 770-962-7580.
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A unit of the Technical College System of Georgia.