Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Where health meets information technology

The following was originally published on the HIMSS Career Resources page:

 Master of Health Informatics from the University of Michigan.

At the University of Michigan: addressing emerging needs and opportunities where health meets information technology

Individuals trained in health IT and informatics will be at the forefront of an inevitable and exciting transformation, powered by information. This transformation will bring about changes in the way organizations deliver and manage health care. The transformation will also change the way consumers of health care, which means all members of society, manage their own health. These two kinds of changes create challenges for the professional workforce and consequent needs for new types of educational programs. We have established such a program at the University of Michigan.

Needs for organizational leaders: Health organizations of all types increasingly recognize that information is a strategic resource and that management of information is their key to future success. As a result, there is an enormous need for a new generation of professionals, trained in both health and information technology, who will become the leaders and managers within information-empowered organizations that revolutionize the ways information is used to promote better health. These professionals will play key roles, at varying levels of seniority, as chief and subordinate information and knowledge officers, technical officers, and strategy officers. Other new roles will surely appear.

These roles exist today but they will become much more prevalent in the future. Individuals who currently hold those positions have, more often that not, risen through the ranks of their organizations, acquiring necessary skills through on the job training. The field needs, in increasing numbers, persons whose educations combine leadership, management and policy in the context of health and information.

Needs for specialists in consumer health: As the population ages, and as members of the general population gain access to information and become more engaged in managing their own health, professionals with deep expertise in consumer health informatics will become increasingly important. A new market is developing for consumer-facing IT applications and a new industry is emerging to create them. This in turn will create demand for individuals who bring to workplace a unique set of skills combining IT, health, and the sciences that underlie health behavior.

By and large, these emergent needs are not being met. Existing graduate programs related to health informatics and health IT largely emphasize research, clinical applications of health care, and deployment of electronic health records and other exemplars of current technology. Such programs play an essential role in supporting ongoing changes in the field, but will not support the complete transformation in health that is the future. Additional programs are needed to meet these and perhaps other needs.

The new health informatics master’s program at the University of Michigan was developed specifically to meet these needs. This is offered jointly by the U-M School of Information and School of Public Health and draws from the expertise, resources and cultures of these two schools. It builds on the strengths of the School of Public Health, with its preeminent programs in health management and health behavior, and on the similarly preeminent programs of the School of Information in cutting-edge technology and social computing.

Accordingly, the curriculum of the new program includes newly created interdisciplinary informatics courses, as well as courses drawn from the offerings of the two sponsoring schools. Internship experiences at carefully selected sites along with a continuous program seminar emphasizing leadership round out a curriculum that will prepare its graduates to engage where the field is going to be. This new program is currently recruiting is charter class, to begin studies in the fall of 2012. For further information, visit http://healthinformatics.umich.edu or contact Meghan Genovese at 734.647.7705.

The University of Michigan Health Informatics program is directed by Dr. Charles Friedman, former Deputy Director and Chief Scientific Officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Learn more about the Master of Health Informatics from the University of Michigan.

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