Health IT education

Training health workers on electronic records

Lance Matheson, associate professor of business information technology, is helping five community colleges incorporate training on electronic medical records in their curricula as part of a larger, federally funded, Virginia Tech-led project on health-related information technology education.

Lance Matheson
Lance Matheson

The project will focus on such training in communities hard hit by job losses in Southwest Virginia. The 25 partners in the initiative include hospitals and clinics and government and educational institutions. “Virtually every employee in a hospital or medical practice will use the system,” Matheson says, “from doctors and nurses to pharmacists, medical technicians, office staff, and IT staff.”

Matheson, whose research interests are in electronic data interchange and the application of new technologies to education, says electronic medical records systems are large computer programs that have been promoted for several years as a way to manage patient information, reduce unnecessary procedures, and improve patient care, while cutting down unnecessary tasks for medical staff. Such records systems often change the way things are done in an organization, he says. “Managers have to pay attention to the change-management issues of any software project.”

In addition to general computer skills, workers need to understand how to use the electronic medical records system. “With more than 200 EMR systems available, we cannot teach the details of any one system in our degree and certificate programs, though we can focus on the systems used in the region,” he says. “Our courses and modules will teach the broad concepts of such systems, which, combined with hands-on experiences, will prepare health workers to use a variety of systems.”

To develop curricula, Matheson will work with Virginia Highlands, Mountain Empire, Southwest Virginia, New River, and Virginia Western community colleges, local health care providers, and faculty at the University of Virginia at Wise.

The overall project has received a $4.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The grant provides $426,000 to underwrite work at Virginia Tech during the three-year life of the project.



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