Jim Borda drove from work in Richmond all the way to Virginia Beach twice a week to take Tidewater Community College's six-month health information technology program.

"It was well worth it," said Borda, 39, a James City County resident, who's now electronic health records manager for the Virginia Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center in Richmond.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services picked Tidewater Community College to lead a consortium of 22 colleges in 11 states and the District of Columbia in training an electronic health records workforce. It's part the stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The two-year, $68 million project aims to train 10,500 people nationally. TCC's portion is $16 million. Its second class is due to graduate Aug. 31, and the third six-month training program begins in September. Full scholarships are available.

The idea is to train a workforce of information technology professionals to help health care providers get up to speed on electronic health records.

Electronic health records have the potential to improve clinical diagnosis, reduce human errors and cut costs, said Gretchen LeFever, director of TCC's Health Information Technology Consortium. It also equips patients with more information about their care, she said.

The program is split into two tracks: health IT consulting, for those with healthcare backgrounds, and health IT engineering, designed for those with IT backgrounds.

Borda, whose career until now was in information technology customer service and tech support, had been looking for a way to break into the health IT field. He was working at a national call center for Canon Information Technology Services in Chesapeake when he started TCC's program. Shortly thereafter, he landed his first health IT job, working for a long-term care facility in Richmond.

Now at the Virginia Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center, Borda helps health-care providers implement and meaningfully use electronic medical records.

Providers will be required to achieve "meaningful use" to qualify for federal incentives.

Big systems like Riverside Health System and Sentara Healthcare use electronic medical records, but not all smaller systems and offices are on board with them yet, Borda said.

"It's a complete change in the way they will be operating and delivering care," he said.

Borda, who has an MBA in health care management, was looking for a way to break into the health IT industry. He couldn't have done it if it weren't for TCC's program, he said.

"I've always had a passion to get into health care," he said. "I was completely dedicated to the industry and getting into it any way I could."

Health IT

Learn more about the health information technology program at Tidewater Community College at tcc.edu/healthit. Pre-application forms may be filled out now for the spring session, which begins in March.