Skip to main content

"It's a HIT!" Rural Health IT Workforce Training Program

  • Need: To provide rural health workers with advanced health information technology (HIT) training and skills.
  • Intervention: A program for health network members to increase HIT knowledge and prepare for Certified Healthcare Technology Specialist (CHTS) certification.
  • Results: Participants learned how to adopt HIT within their own clinics, and 80% of students received certification as an HIT Clinic Workflow Redesign Specialist.


Prairie Health Information Technology Network logoRural clinics often lack health information technology (HIT) expertise or designated IT professionals. However, HIT has become a driver of healthcare workflows and quality care for patients. This has presented a need to improve HIT expertise in rural clinics.

The Prairie Health Information Technology Network supported 21 primary care clinics with the adoption of HIT, meaningful use of the electronic health record (EHR), and staff HIT training. Network members included three Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and one university: Horizon Health Care, Inc. and Dakota State University (DSU).

In 2011, the network began, thanks to receiving a 2011-2013 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Health Information Technology Network Development grant. The initial work revolved around assisting clinics in using and adopting HIT, and it became apparent that additional training was necessary to better serve staff and employees in rural areas.

In 2013, the network received additional FORHP funding to develop the "It's a HIT!" Training Program. "It's a HIT!" delivered a modified version of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) curriculum in addition to certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) training and apprenticeship.

The HIT training program was developed to equip rural healthcare providers and staff with the expertise necessary to navigate the digital side of the healthcare industry. New and existing rural healthcare workers were provided with knowledge of HIT concepts and potential recognition as HIT Clinic Workflow Redesign Specialists by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

In the program's first year, students had the opportunity to test for Clinician Practitioner Consultant certification as well, but this was later combined with the workflow specialist track. In addition, participants received a better understanding of the EHR system as a user and the system's role in reporting, patient care, and health coordination.

In the first year of the grant, Prairie partnered with DSU in Madison, South Dakota, to develop the curriculum design and publish training materials. The first set of students in the program enrolled in 2014. In 2015, Prairie Health Network was able to offer "It's a HIT!" coursework to other FQHCs outside of its network located in North and South Dakota.

This program was supported by the FORHP Rural Health Information Technology Workforce Program.

Services offered

The "It's a HIT!" Training Program cost was $799 per student. This fee covered course material, lectures, assignments, and preparation materials. The program ran from September through May. Students completed approximately 3 hours per week of online coursework, at their own pace. There were three components of the training program:

  • HIT Training was a 16-week fall course. Each class lasted 2 weeks and assigned roughly 3 hours of coursework per week.
    • Introduction to Information and Computer Science
    • Health Management Information Systems
    • Introduction to Healthcare and Public Health
    • Terminology in Health Care and Public Health Settings
    • Fundamentals of Health Workflow Process Analysis and Redesign
    • Usability and Human Factors
    • Quality Improvement
    • AHIMA CHTS certification testing
  • EHR Training was an 8-week training that ran during the winter. There was a single 2-hour-long training session each week. Each training session featured a new topic around the SuccessEHS EHR system. In 2016-2017, due to the EHR transition effort, the network was able to change the CEHRT Curriculum to a 2.5-day onsite training with the certified trainer from the EHR vendor. The students participated in 8 hours of front desk "super user" training and 12 hours of EHR "super user" training.
  • The final project portion of the training started in the spring and lasted 4 weeks. Depending on the project, the assignment required 1 to 4 hours per week to finish. Students:
    • Designed and implemented their program of choice at a local clinic
    • Demonstrated their knowledge and skills by developing a project that improved clinic workflow

This video discusses the stages of the "It's a HIT!" curriculum:


  • 30 students completed the "It's a HIT!" Training Program.
  • There was a 33% pass rate for AHIMA CHTS certification as an HIT Clinic Workflow Redesign Specialist and Clinician Practitioner Consultant.
  • Existing rural health staff who participated in HIT training were able to teach and assist with integrating EHR updates in their local clinic's daily workflow.
  • Past participants became active leaders in a network member's EMR Adoption and Implementation process.


One of the requirements for this federally funded program included giving students an opportunity to pass an exam for certification. This created a slight challenge for curriculum design as exam expectations can drive coursework toward "teaching to the test" versus teaching for everyday practicality in the workplace.

Schedule restrictions were another challenge for the HIT training program. The students targeted to participate were not traditional university students but rather full-time healthcare workers. Some trainees even reported that they squeezed in coursework between seeing patients. It's important that course material is compact enough to not deter participants but thorough enough for certification testing.


A full nine-month-long program is not required for successful HIT training. But, regardless of allotted time, organizations should strongly consider this training as a central component to their own healthcare delivery success. A formalized structure of some kind is important for the training process, regardless of the resources available to the program.

Groups should look to already existing resources and material. For instance, ONC programs are federal open-source materials.

Contact Information

Scott Weatherill, Chief Information Officer
Prairie Health Information Technology Network

Health information technology
Health information technology workforce
Health workforce education and training
Healthcare networks

States served
South Dakota

Date added
December 8, 2015

Date updated or reviewed
January 17, 2019

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.