ONC Job Roles

ONC University-Based Training Job Roles

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has defined 12 job roles for the health information technology (HIT) workforce, six of which will be trained by funding from the University-Based Training Grant in programs such as those offered by OHSU. These job roles were described in ONC’s Funding Opportunity Announcement for this program. This page describes the approach of the OHSU biomedical informatics program for those six job roles. Listed for each job role is ONC’s description, the OHSU program’s educational goals, and the specific curricular requirements for students pursuing that specific job role in the OHSU biomedical informatics program.

1. Clinician/Public Health Leader

Role description from ONC’s Funding Opportunity Announcement: “By combining formal clinical or public health training with training in health IT, individuals in this role will be able to lead the successful deployment and use of health IT to achieve transformational improvement in the quality, safety, outcomes, and thus in the value, of health services in the United States. In the health care provider settings, this role may be currently expressed through job titles such as Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO), Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO). In public health agencies, this role may be currently expressed through job titles such as Chief Information or Chief Informatics Officer. Training appropriate to this role will require at least one year of study leading to a university-issued certificate or master’s degree in health informatics or health IT, as a complement to the individual’s prior clinical or public health academic training.”

OHSU educational goals: The overall goal of this job-role program will be to train individuals with clinical or public health backgrounds who desire to become leaders in the implementation of HIT for healthcare or public health respectively. Those in healthcare settings will likely apply HIT to transform the quality and safety while reducing cost of healthcare, while those in public health settings will use HIT to improve the informatics support of the public health mission, especially in the interface between public health and EHR systems.

Curriculum for program: This job role is the most common career goal sought by students in our existing program. Based on the substantial experience of our graduates, we have ample evidence that either our Graduate Certificate or Master of Biomedical Informatics (MBI) program is suitable preparation for this job role. The MBI will be beneficial for those individuals who have less background or experience in clinical informatics or who desire a more in-depth course of study. Students in both programs will have additional required courses in Project Management (BMI 518), Business of Healthcare Informatics (BMI 519), and Health Care Quality (BMI 537). Students seeking to work in public health settings will be required to take Public Health Informatics (BMI 521) and can also take additional courses in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program on our campus.

2. Health Information Management and Exchange Specialist

Role description from ONC’s Funding Opportunity Announcement: “Individuals in these roles support the collection, management, retrieval, exchange, and/or analysis of information in electronic form, in health care and public health organizations. We anticipate that graduates of this training would typically not enter directly into leadership or management roles.”

OHSU educational goals: Although the realization of a fully electronic health records environment is transforming the health information management (HIM) profession, there will continue to be a well-recognized need for individuals with expertise in the acquisition, management, exchange, and analysis of information in healthcare and public health settings. This program will train the future professionals and leaders in HIM alongside those in applied clinical informatics.

Curriculum for program: Students entering this program will be those likely to pursue careers in HIM, another area where our program already has substantial experience. (We had a number of HIM students in our program even before we began developing the program specifically for HIM.) Students in this program will need to have a prior baccalaureate or higher degree in any discipline.  (Those with the RHIT credential will find this program particularly well suited to their backgrounds.)  Graduate Certificate students in this program will pursue the HIM Track of the Graduate Certificate, which requires all of the courses from the HIM domain (BMI 582, BMI 583, BMI 584, BMI 585, BMI 586, BMI 587, and BMI 588). MBI students will be required to take those same courses from the HIM domain. Students in both tracks will be expected to pursue the RHIA certification.

3. Health Information Privacy and Security Specialist

Role description from ONC’s Funding Opportunity Announcement: “Maintaining trust by ensuring the privacy and security of health information is an essential component of any successful health IT deployment. Individuals in this role would be qualified to serve as institutional/organizational information privacy or security officers.”

OHSU educational goals: The academic program for this role will aim to develop expertise needed at the intersection between privacy/security and healthcare/public health.  To excel or lead in this area, individuals will require specialized training built upon a foundation of biomedical informatics and computer systems security methodologies. Individuals in this program are likely to serve as information privacy or security officers in healthcare and public health settings

Curriculum for program: Students will be required to enter this program with some expertise in health-related privacy and security. They will be required to take a course in this area, Health Information Privacy and Security (BMI 549). Students will also be able to pursue more advanced courses in computer security in the Department of Computer Science at Portland State University as well as practicum and internship projects working with HIT privacy and security experts.

4. Research and Development Scientist

Role description from ONC’s Funding Opportunity Announcement: “These individuals will support efforts to create innovative models and solutions that advance the capabilities of health IT, and conduct studies on the effectiveness of health IT and its effect on health care quality. Individuals trained for these positions would also be expected to take positions as teachers in institutions of higher education including community colleges, building health IT training capacity across the nation.”

OHSU educational goals: This role recognizes the need for research and development scientists who will develop new models and approaches to advance the science behind the meaningful and optimal use of HIT. These individuals will carry out studies on the effectiveness of HIT and its effect on healthcare quality, safety, and cost. They will also likely assume positions as educators in a wide variety of higher education settings.

Curriculum for program: To enroll in the OHSU program for this role students will be required to hold a doctoral degree in computer science, one of the health professions, or other relevant fields. They will pursue a course of study that gives them the knowledge and skills of informatics and research methods applied within its science. While these students will more likely be in the MBI, there may be some for whom the Graduate Certificate will provide enough additional knowledge of informatics to become productive researchers. These students will be required to complete additional courses in our Evaluative Sciences domain, including Qualitative Research Methods (BMI 561) and Quantitative Research Methods (BMI 562). They will be able to pursue practicum and internship experiences that are more research-focused in nature.

5. Programmer and Software Engineer

Role description from ONC’s Funding Opportunity Announcement: “We anticipate that these individuals will be the architects and developers of advanced health IT solutions. These individuals will be cross-trained in IT and health domains, thereby possessing a high level of familiarity with health domains to complement their technical skills in computer and information science. As such, the solutions they develop would be expected to reflect a sophisticated understanding of the problems being addressed and the special problems created by the culture, organizational context, and workflow of health care.”

OHSU educational goals: Although informatics professionals comprise the largest need and most focus of HIT workforce development, there is still need for those who architect and develop the underlying technology for healthcare and public health settings. These individuals will combine their technical knowledge with an understanding of the culture, organizational context, and workflow of healthcare and public health environments.

Curriculum for program: Students who complete this program will become the technology leaders in the new HIT environment. Those enrolling will likely already have strong backgrounds in computer science, information science, or related disciplines. Their course of study will place a heavy emphasis on learning about healthcare and/or public health. In addition to taking the already required BMI 530 course, they will be required to take other courses in biomedical informatics that provide a context for their IT expertise, including Project Management (BMI 518), Business of Healthcare Management (BMI 519), Health Care Quality (BMI 537), and Public Health Informatics (BMI 521).

6. Health IT Sub-specialist

Role description from ONC’s Funding Opportunity Announcement: “The ultimate success of health IT will require, as part of the workforce, a relatively small number of individuals whose training combines health care or public health generalist knowledge, knowledge of IT, and deep knowledge drawn from disciplines that inform health IT policy or technology. Such disciplines include ethics, economics, business, policy and planning, cognitive psychology, and industrial/systems engineering. The deep understanding of an external discipline, as it applies to health IT, will enable these individuals to complement the work of the research and development scientists described above. These individuals would be expected to find employment in research and development settings, and could serve important roles as teachers.”

OHSU educational goals: This job-role program will combine informatics training and knowledge from other disciplines that inform HIT policy or technology, such as those described by ONC. Their specialization across more than one discipline will enable these individuals to augment the work of researchers and developers. This program’s graduates will likely be employed in research settings, and also may serve as educators.

Curriculum for program: Students in this program will bring a variety of other backgrounds into the informatics field, or expand informatics into those disciplines (i.e., those listed above) and pursue a course of study that enables them to become subspecialists across multidisciplinary boundaries. The potential courses that students in this track could pursue is broad but is covered by what is available at OHSU or PSU. Students will work with their faculty mentor to develop a tailored set of required courses and practical experience.

Additional Required Curriculum Elements

Students supported by ONC funding will be required to select a job role and take additional courses as described above and listed in the table below. They will also be required to complete a practicum (Graduate Certificate) or internship (Master of Biomedical Informatics) experience (details forthcoming).

Job Role Additional Required Courses
Clinician/public health leader
BMI 518, BMI 519, BMI 537, and (for public health) BMI 521
Health information management and exchange specialist
BMI 583, BMI 584, BMI 585, BMI 586, BMI 587, BMI 588
Health information privacy and security specialist
BMI 549
Research and development scientist
BMI 561, BMI 562
Programmer and software engineer
BMI 518, BMI 519, BMI 537, and (for public health) BMI 521
Health IT sub-specialist
(Tailored to individual course of study)