ONC releases evaluation report reviewing ARRA workforce programs

March 21, 2014

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released a report in March that evaluates the four workforce development programs that were authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. 

The programs, collectively known as the Information Technology (IT) Professionals in Health Care Program, had a primary goal of rapidly and sustainably training a new workforce of health IT professionals to help providers implement and optimize electronic health records (EHRs) to improve health care quality, safety, and cost-efficiency.  ONC contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago to design and conduct a formative and summative evaluation of the Workforce Program to understand and capture the processes used by grantees to implement the program, assess program effectiveness, and uncover best practices and lessons learned.

The Workforce Program is comprised of four constituent programs:

  • Community College Consortia to Educate Information Technology Professionals in Health Care program (CCC program)
  • Program of Assistance for University-Based Training (UBT program)
  • Curriculum Development Centers program
  • Competency Examination for Individuals Completing Non-Degree Training program (also known as the HIT Pro Exam)

In total, ONC awarded $116 million in funding across these four constituent programs. All four programs were funded in April 2010.

Although grantees are no longer receiving grant funding, at present, 63 of the original CCCs and all nine of the UBTs that received grant funding are continuing their health IT educational offerings. In addition, the HIT Pro exam has been transitioned to the American Health Information Management Association-Certified Healthcare Technology Specialist credential. The curriculum materials are now publicly available and are thus not limited to those affiliated with the Workforce Programs.

Looking forward, colleges and universities have a variety of plans in place for their training programs, including creating longer training programs with more of a focus on hands-on learning, transitioning certificate programs to master’s programs, and combining various training programs in strategic ways.

Moreover, a number of common themes in the report shed light on the program’s success as a whole, and can be readily applied to other schools looking to launch or improve workforce training programs. For example, given the overarching purpose of the training program, all grantees and stakeholders noted the extreme importance of forging solid connections with the employer community.  The flexibility that ONC provided the grantees also emerged as one of its greatest assets and this manifested in several ways, including allowing for different learning formats and providing the CCCs the ability to adapt the curriculum materials to their needs and capacities.

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