Being immersed in – and passionate about – the world of healthcare IT has led me to the realization that education is fundamental to its implementation, utilization and realization of clinical success stories. By education, I mean introducing to students at an early age the concept of healthcare IT and its role in improving access to quality care. I have been involved in several organizations that recognize this need and are working to bring healthcare IT-related curricula into classroom and after-school activities.
For example, the Institute for Health Information Technology recently issued a workforce readiness survey that highlighted the need for greater collaboration between Georgia’s educational institutions, and healthcare vendors and providers. By working together, these stakeholders can ensure workforce needs will be met with properly educated and trained students.
In addition, the Georgia Department of Education, and the Technology Association of Georgia’s Health and Education societies partner each year to offer students a chance to compete in the Student Healthcare IT Innovation Award challenge. Last year was the first in which middle and high school teams competed, and it was exciting to see kids pumped up about healthcare IT, especially when the winners accepted their awards on stage in front of hundreds at the Health IT Leadership Summit.
If Georgia is to remain the “Nation’s Capitol of Healthcare IT,” then it is up to us “older” folks to get more students at every level excited about the opportunities and benefits it can bring to our community. I had the chance to chat with Cheryl Batts, RN, BSN, Med, a healthcare science technology teacher at Harrison County High School, and her student Christopher Keough about the importance of healthcare IT education. Both conversations provided enlightening – and encouraging – insight into the future of healthcare IT in Georgia’s schools and beyond.
Ms. Batts, how have you seen students become interested and excited about healthcare IT?
“Honestly, they knew nothing about [the student healthcare IT innovation award] until the competition came out three years ago. My students love a challenge and took it on. They were so very excited to be in the top finalists, and loved meeting the Lieutenant Governor and going to the Fox for the Health IT Leadership Summit. They were very excited when the competition changed the following year to developing a mobile app. I can still remember when I told one student; he texted me back saying “That’s coo1!”
How do you convey the importance of this field to them, and the role it will play in helping people lead healthier lives in the coming years?
“Every year we talk about careers in healthcare and the importance of pursuing a degree with which you can get a job. Health IT always stands out with so many jobs available.
Have you seen any of your students graduate and go on to pursue studies in this area?
“Not yet. I have only had one student participate that graduated who is currently at UGA majoring in Nursing. All those that competed this year are seniors and I am hoping one of them will highly consider this career as he is very talented and would be excellent in this career.”
Christopher, what prompted you to become interested in healthcare IT?
“I have always been interested in healthcare, and technology is a hobby of mine. Health IT provides me with a combination of both!”
How do you pursue these interests?
“I pursue this interest in the field of Health IT through programs like the TAG Ed Health IT Student Leadership Summit. These programs offer young students the opportunity to network with other Health IT enthusiasts and leaders.”
Why do you think healthcare IT is exciting?
“I feel that the Health IT is an exciting field because not only is it always relevant but it is always changing and will continue to do so.”
Do you plan to pursue healthcare IT after high school and/or college?
“I honestly have no idea what the future holds for me but I do know that it will be in the healthcare field. Health IT is one of my many options and is definitely a possibility for a future profession.”
After talking with Ms. Batts and Christopher, it seems clear to me that Georgia’s students are open to the idea of learning more about healthcare IT. I’m fairly certain that Georgia businesses and healthcare providers would be excited to participate in developing curricula that will ensure their workforce needs are met in the coming years. It will be interesting to see how it all comes together for the good of Georgia’s students, patients and economy.