Propelled by federal incentives and regulations, hospitals, private practices, and health networks across eastern Massachusetts are implementing new Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems to improve patient care while controlling costs. Since Health Information Technology (Health IT) professionals serve such a critical role as a link between electronic databases and healthcare professionals, they are in very high demand, with hiring expected to grow by 19% in Massachusetts by 2022.
“There are plenty of jobs in Health IT because interoperability is so important,” said Gerald Elysee, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology’s Health IT programs. “There are so many different EHR vendors and standards. The best way to get the full benefits of this new Health IT wave is to have all of these products, software, and devices talk to each other.”
The fact that the Health IT field is booming in Boston should not come as a surprise. After all, Boston is an international hub of healthcare.
The fact that the Health IT field is booming in Boston should not come as a surprise. After all, Boston is an international hub of healthcare, hosting some of the largest and most prestigious medical centers, teaching hospitals, and health systems. Partners HealthCare – which includes hospitals like Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital – recently launched their own information management system, Partners eCare.
Years of planning and testing were performed to ensure a smooth rollout of the system. Behind this rollout are Health IT professionals responsible for designing the software, performing tests, integrating platforms, and maintaining the live applications. Students from BFIT’s Health IT program had the opportunity to work alongside some of these professionals as they completed an internship with Partners eCare this past semester.
The interns received extensive technical training that exposed them to a variety of applications: scheduling appointments, managing medication history, recording and submitting insurance claims, and more. “In the morning we received training on a specific application. Then we were assigned group projects and used the actual software to create custom databases or design a clinic’s scheduling workflow,” Xavier, a BFIT Health IT student and Partners eCare intern, said. “It’s been challenging, but we’ve learned so much.”
Jennifer Brown, who was responsible for the interns' training sessions at Partners eCare, emphasized the importance of mastering the technical skills as well as focusing on professionalism. “To succeed, you need to be bright and collaborative. It’s important to have project management and communication skills. You need to be willing to learn. These students have that.”
"Now, you see nurses, doctors, and IT professionals going back to get Health IT training. There's so much opportunity right now."
BFIT’s Health IT curriculum introduces students to building and maintaining databases. Coursework also provides students with an overview of the healthcare industry, as well as the legal, regulatory, and confidentiality issues inherent in the field. “The classes gave me a solid foundation that I can apply to specific software on the job.” Scott, another BFIT Health IT intern, said.
To ensure that the academic program is aligned with industry needs, Prof. Elysee and other faculty continuously communicate with hospital administrators, vendors and other technology leaders to determine their current and future needs. For example, in their final semester projects, Health IT students are presented real life scenarios and then tasked with finding the best clinical mobile applications to help doctors work remotely.
Equipped with the technical and professional skills to enter the Health IT field, BFIT students will help to transform an industry, and ultimately, improve patients' health outcomes and quality of life. “We are the second class of Health IT bachelor’s degree graduates from BFIT,” Xavier said. “Now you see nurses, doctors and IT professionals going back to get Health IT training. There’s so much opportunity out there.”