Collaborative Health Information Technology Program Launches

Classes got underway March 4 at Gwinnett Tech in Lawrenceville for the newly-launched Health Information Technology (HIT) certificate program, a part of the HIT education partnership between the Georgia Institute of Technology and Gwinnett Technical College.

The inaugural class of 17, many with backgrounds in health care or information technology, are training for jobs in what many say is the fastest growing sector in the health care industry.  According to the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Georgia-based HIT sector employs about 15,000 people, and the sector’s primary businesses are growing at a 40 percent annual rate. 

A $1.65 million award from the federal government’s Jobs and Innovation Accelerator initiative supports the program and helps to provide stipends for veterans, the underemployed and the unemployed.

The one-year HIT certificate includes industry-designed courses in an array of core skills essential for developing HIT professionals who are responsible for organizing and managing health information data and its secure exchange among all users.  The course work will also focus on communications skills needed to discuss patient information and information discrepancies with physicians, insurance companies and others in the health care industry.

The three-year “Feet on the Ground” program will continually evolve as curriculum components are tested in year one, with a target of graduating some 400 certified trainees annually in years two and three.  According to Jim Sass, dean of health information systems at Gwinnett Tech, by the third year the hope also is to roll the program out to all the technical college system schools in the state.

Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) is coordinating the HIT education partnership with Gwinnett Tech.  “Our partnership with Gwinnett Tech is the first of its kind, and will be a key factor in the effort to cement Georgia’s role as a leader in the rapidly growing health information technology sector,” said Stephen Fleming, vice president and executive director of EI2. “Our approach is to develop both the innovative technology vital to HIT and the workforce that will use the technology to improve health care delivery.”