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Health Informatics: Building the Workforce in Health care

Originated by: Scott Hallal-Negishi

Submitted: 17 Aug 2012

Last updated on: 17 Aug 2012

Related Health Topics:


Health Informatics.  What is it?  To help explain, let us take a look the curriculum of the Normandale Community College’s Informatics program.  I have had the pleasure to speak with the Dean of the Informatics Program in detail about their 6-month intensive training program. http://www.mnhealthit.com/  

Incoming students are given the opportunity to choose a role that fits their experience and career objectives when entering the program.  The four roles include the following:

1. Practice Workflow and Information Management

Workers in this role are IT professionals, management engineers, systems analysts, database administrators, and others who assist in redesigning tasks clinicians perform to take full advantage of the features of health IT (EHR) in pursuit of meaningful use (MU) of certified EHR to earn incentives and improve health and care.

2. Clinician/Practitioner Consultant

Workers in this role are themselves clinicians (physicians, nurses, allied health professionals) who assist in redesigning tasks clinicians perform to take full advantage of the features of health IT (EHR) in pursuit of meaningful use (MU) of certified EHR to earn incentives and improve health and care.

3. Implementation Support Specialist

Workers in this role provide on-site user support above and beyond what is provided by the vendor during implementation of health IT (EHR).

4. Electronic Health Records (EHR) Trainer.

Workers in this role design and deliver training programs to health IT (EHR) system users, incorporating adult learning principles and end-user needs assessment concepts, appropriate for the EHR/HIT environment.

If you have ever read through job requirements in the health IT field, you know how complex those requirements are.  It is usually a long list of computer programming jargon that cannot be understood by the average healthcare worker.  Differentiating between roles, allows students to cater their education to help them become more literate in a branch of health IT most relevant to their career.

Let’s look at some examples of job qualifications:

•Bachelor's Degree from a four-year college or university in Information Technology or equivalent is preferred •5+ years of AS/400 (iSeries) experience using either RPG IV and/or RPG/ILE as well as CL, and DDS/DB2 file structures. •Strong work ethic and capable of working independently or in small groups •Excellent communicator, who can effectively translate user requirements into specifications. •General understanding of the software development life cycle and database design •Experience with LANSA, Help/Systems SEQUEL, SQL, and WebSphere a plus •minimum 5 years development experience on IBM iSeries (AS400).

• 5+ years strong experience using SAS and SQL - sound in Base and Advance SAS  concepts (writing complex SQL, Debugging and Optimization techniques)  with SAS9 or higher. At least 4 years of Experience in using SAS web reports studio, Enterprise Guide, SAS/MACROS, SAS/ACCESS, SAS/GRAPH, SAS/SQL, SAS/ODS
• 5+ years of experience in Healthcare claims data analysis
• 5+ years of experience of using relational databases and ETL tools such as Oracle etc.
• 4+ years of Experience in requirements documentation, technical solution design & functional specifications and test cases documentation
• 5+ years of experience in performing various testing processes ( unit,system,integration, regression) for SAS programs
• 3+ years of Experience in leading team of SAS analysts and programmers
• 5+ years proficiency with Microsoft Office applications including Access, Excel and Word
• Bachelor's degree in Health Administration, Finance, Health Care Informatics OR High School diploma/GED and at least 7 years of equivalent experience
• 5+ years of experience in using UNIX (Should have a working knowledge on UNIX platforms and a bit of Shell Scripting knowledge. Should be skilled enough to manage the technical team, help them, mentor them technically and get the work done from them on time. )
• 5+ years process documentation, ITIL, SDLC  and process flow experience
• Excellent oral and written communication skills
• Strong quantitative, problem-solving, customer facing , resourceful & imaginative, excellent problem solving skills with a demonstrated ability to conceptualize client business problems and design analytic projects to address these problems
• Proactive, ensure general technical competencies and specialization are kept up to date in line with industry development and departmental needs; Exceptional attention to detail; Environment: Able to achieve high quality delivery to tight deadlines

Required Skills: Hands on experience in implementation of interfaces to EMR systems 5 years
Implementation of HL7 Interfaces 5 years
Web service development, SOAP, javascript and XML 5 years

Desired Skills:
Mirth, NwHIN, XDS.b, SQL

Getting the foot into the door in health IT is even more difficult than IT alone because it also requires experience in clinical settings, knowledge of healthcare policy, insurance plans, medical coding, etc.  When we consider that over the next five years, approximately 51,000 qualified health information technology workers will be required to meet the needs of the health care field, the need for work related health IT education seems very evident.

Let’s take a look at a sample course description to see how health and IT are blended.  You can find a complete listing of course descriptions for each role by visiting http://www.mnhealthit.com/information.

Quality Improvement

Course Description: Introduces the concepts of health IT and practice workflow redesign as instruments of quality improvement; Addresses establishing a culture that supports increased quality and safety. Discusses approaches to assessing patient safety issues and implementing quality management and reporting through electronic systems.

Course Topics

1. Introduction to Quality Improvement and Health Information Technology

2. Principles of quality and safety for HIT

3. Reliability and Culture of Safety

4. Human Factors: HIT design and complexity

5. HIT design to support Teamwork and Communication

6. Decision Support for Quality Improvement

7. Safe Workflow Design

8. HIT implementation planning to maximize quality and safety

9. HIT and Infecting a Patient Safety Culture

10. HIT Design for Quality Reporting

11. Data Quality Improvement

12. Learning from mistakes: error reporting and analysis and HIT

Practical experience is just as important as knowledge in gaining a full understanding of a topic.  Within the of this online learning experience, the student has the option to gain experience at a clinic.  Just as practical experience is important, implementation is necessary, especially in a condensed 6-month program, which is why Normandale Community College has linked with employers to offer job placement opportunities to new graduates.

To conclude, here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia on Health Informatics to see how an education al program on Health Informatics compares: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_informatics#Medical_informatics_in_the_United_States

Health informatics (also called health care informatics, healthcare informatics, medical informatics, nursing informatics, clinical informatics, or biomedical informatics) is a discipline at the intersection of information science, computer science, and health care. It deals with the resources, devices, and methods required to optimize the acquisition, storage, retrieval, and use of information in health and biomedicine. Health informatics tools include not only computers but also clinical guidelines, formal medical terminologies, and information and communication systems. It is applied to the areas of nursing, clinical care, dentistry, pharmacy, public health, occupational therapy, and (bio)medical research.



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