At WMed, our Clinical Informatics programs are designed to accommodate clinicians and those who support clinicians, who are already working in a clinical environment and who are actively experiencing the transition to Health Care 3.0, an evolution that will bring the full force and power of interconnected information technology into the healthcare system. WMed is offering graduate training in clinical informatics. Most of the other graduate programs offered at other institutions are graduate programs in health informatics. What is the difference?
Health Informatics: According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), Health Informatics is "a scientific discipline that is concerned with the cognitive, information-processing, and communication tasks of health care practice, education, and research, including the information science and technology to support these tasks; A field of information science concerned with the management of all aspects of health data and information through the application of computers and computer technology.”
Thus, health informatics is a broadly defined domain that, in addition to the use of technology in the direct delivery of healthcare services, also incorporates many non-clinical areas of healthcare such as billing, scheduling, claims submission and processing, and revenue cycle management.
Clinical Informatics: The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) has defined Clinical Informatics as “the application of informatics and information technology to deliver health care services. It includes a wide range of topics from clinical documentation to provider order entry systems and from system design to system implementation and adoption issues.”
Thus, Clinical Informatics focuses on the use of technology to directly affect patient care in a clinic or other health care delivery environment.
- Why should I enroll in the Clinical Informatics programs at WMed?
One problem with many Masters’ programs in health informatics is that the students enrolled come from widely divergent backgrounds with many of them having no clinical experience or training. Thus, the course work and level of discussion has to be geared to accommodate those with little experience in a healthcare setting. When you have a mix of students in which some are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, PA's, or others with expertise in healthcare delivery, and other students are computer science graduates, business administration graduates or others with no healthcare training or experience, those with a healthcare background end up spending a lot of time explaining basic principles of medicine, the basic structure of the healthcare system and the basics of clinical practice to the students who lack that understanding. Similarly, students enroll in these programs with diverse expectations about where they hope to end up. Some want to work for EHR vendors or healthcare technology start-ups. Others may want to go into hospital or public health administration and some are experienced clinicians, healthcare administrators or health IT technicians who want to help deliver better care to patients, and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the healthcare system through the use of advanced clinical informatics principles, methods and technologies. These are the people we are looking for at WMed for the Clinical Informatics programs.
By concentrating on clinical informatics and enrolling only students who have clinical or other relevant training and/or experience in healthcare settings, we can provide instruction that operates at an advanced level of understanding and focuses on providing concentrated delivery of specific informatics knowledge and skills.
At WMed, we believe that quality healthcare depends on skilled staff and medical professionals who collectively drive the whole patient experience across the continuum of care. Compassionate, expertly trained and broadly experienced physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals are the stewards of healthcare. If new models for the delivery of healthcare services are to be effective, they must draw heavily on the expertise of experienced clinicians and healthcare professionals at every phase of design and implementation. In turn, in order for clinicians and other healthcare experts to make meaningful contributions to the re-engineering of the healthcare system, they must learn new skills that up-to-now have not been part of their clinical training. This new skill set is known as Clinical Informatics.
- What are some of the skills that will help clinicians and healthcare experts provide better care and improve the healthcare system?
Optimizing existing and emerging health information technologies. Since 2011, the federal government and healthcare organizations have spent tens of billions of dollars acquiring and implementing electronic health record systems (EHRs). Many of the expected benefits of these technologies have not been realized. Part of the reason for this may be exaggerated claims on the part of the developers and proponents of these systems. Another factor, however, is that the systems are often poorly configured, implemented and utilized. In Clinical Informatics, clinicians and healthcare professionals learn how to configure, implement and use health information technologies in ways that leverage the best features of the technology to create efficiencies and improve care.
Work flow re-engineering. Simply “computerizing” an existing non-electronic workflow rarely results in either improvement in efficiency or effectiveness. Electronic banking did not create online versions of existing paper processes like writing a check for your phone bill and mailing it to the phone company. It created new processes that allow you to set up automatic bill paying that electronically transfers money from your account to the phone company based on a schedule that you select. Similarly, in healthcare, just creating an electronic version of the paper chart will not result in improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare. The benefits of advanced technologies are only realized when the existing workflows and processes are examined to determine how they should be changed to leverage the speed, processing power, and functionality of these new tools. Clinical Informaticists combine a deep knowledge of medicine and clinical practices with an understanding of the power of new technologies to create new, often radically different, clinical processes that maximize the benefits of technology to improve human health.
Clinical decision support design and implementation. Effective and efficient patient care and treatment requires careful consideration and analysis of large amounts of data. Properly programmed and configured computers and other advanced information technologies can collect, store, and analyze thousands of data points in seconds and bring important information that may not be readily apparent to the attention of clinicians in the form of alerts, recommendations, recommended order sets and best practice advisories. Unfortunately, technology-based, clinical-decision support systems are often so poorly designed and implemented that the work of clinicians is impeded by trivial pop-up alerts, annoying “hard stops” that the clinician must dismiss with time consuming mouse clicks or data entry, or other burdensome tasks that do not contribute to improved care. In order for automated clinical-decision support systems to be useful to working clinicians, they must provide context sensitive, meaningful insights and information at the right time and in the right place. Clinical Informaticists who combine a deep knowledge of medicine and clinical practices with an understanding of data analysis tools and human-machine interfaces are critical to the design of effective and efficient clinical decision support that facilitates the making of evidenced-based, good clinical decisions.
Measuring quality and value. Experienced clinicians and healthcare professionals have a special ability to define and recognize quality when it comes to effective care and treatment. They see the results of clinical processes and treatments in the lives of their patients on a daily basis. Therefore, it stands to reason that clinicians should play a major role in identifying indicators of quality care and standards of performance. Unfortunately, many of the indicators currently used to measure patient outcomes and, hence, the skill of a practitioner, have been so poorly designed and implemented that the results of many rating systems are highly suspect. For example, an outcome measure that does not take into account risk factors in a given patient population can make a highly skilled and successful physician appear less competent than a less skilled physician who only treats low-risk patients. In the field of clinical informatics, skilled clinicians and healthcare professionals use their clinical experience to help identify and validate objective measures of clinical outcomes and design the reporting tools that help provide this information back to clinicians to be used in a virtuous cycle of performance improvement.
Implementing standards for interoperability. Today, the care of individual patients is provided by a myriad of healthcare professionals working in a diverse array of healthcare organizations. One of the most daunting challenges facing healthcare today is the inability of these different clinicians and healthcare organizations to communicate quickly and completely. This becomes increasingly difficult when the communication involves complex types of information that need to be transferred electronically from one EHR to another. In order to effectively communicate complex data such as radiology reports, lab orders and results, histopathology reports, genetic testing results, and other types of information, especially in a machine-readable form, we need agreed-upon standards of measurement, nomenclature and transmission. Clinicians who collect, interpret, and use this information are uniquely positioned to help create these standards. Clinical Informaticists take the lead in efforts to create and adopt these standards by sitting on committees that develop standards and governing boards that enforce them.
Effecting change to the healthcare system at the organizational, community, state and national levels. Patient care is increasingly influenced by administrative and policy decisions made at the organizational, community, state, and national levels. Such decisions and actions as the selection of a new EHR system by hospital administration, the implementation of new communicable disease reporting requirements by a county health department or the passage of massive federal legislation like the Affordable Care Act all have profound effects on healthcare delivery in the clinical setting. In the study of clinical informatics, clinicians learn how to participate and effectively influence these important decisions as clinical representatives on project teams, advisory boards and legislative liaisons.
Programs in Clinical Informatics
The Program in Biomedical Informatics (BMI) at WMed has two interdisciplinary graduate level, educational tracks focused on Clinical Informatics: a two semester (Fall/Spring), 15-credit program leading to the graduate Certificate in Applied Clinical Informatics and a two-year (four semester), 30-credit program leading to a Masters in Clinical Informatics.
The graduate Certificate in Applied Clinical Informatics is designed for participants with a healthcare background (clinical, administrative or technical) and focuses on the challenges in the development and application of healthcare technology in a variety of clinical settings. The program will review current topics in Clinical Informatics of concern to all who work with healthcare technology and its impact on the care of patients. The goal of the program is to provide participants with useful knowledge and applicable skills to make a positive impact on the delivery of healthcare through the use of appropriate technology implementation.
Students interested in more in-depth knowledge of Clinical Informatics can pursue the Masters in Clinical Informatics. The first year of the program mirrors the content of the graduate Certificate program. The second year will further the students’ knowledge of advanced Clinical Informatics with a more in-depth experience with data analytics, healthcare technology security, interoperability topics, an evaluation of informatics research and culminating in an Applied Clinical Informatics capstone project in a healthcare setting.
The program utilizes a hybrid method of instructional delivery consisting of on-campus activities on alternate Saturdays to accommodate working students. Saturday sessions begin at 8 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. with lunch and other breaks scheduled during the instructional day. This is supplemented in the interval weeks with weekly online group discussions, pre-programmed online learning activities and class projects.
- Certificate Program and Master’s Degree, Year 1
Fundamentals of Clinical Informatics: This unit provides an overview of the field of Clinical Informatics. Starting with the definition of Clinical Informatics students explore other domains and subspecialties of Biomedical informatics with an emphasis on Clinical Informatics. This unit includes a review of: the current challenges and important issues in Clinical Informatics affecting health care; public, private and governmental organizations involved in Clinical Informatics; health care technology adoption by health care organizations and providers and barriers to adoption, and; clinical informatics organizations, professional opportunities and educational resources. The unit concludes with an analysis of ethical and legal issues affecting the Clinical Informatician.
Health Care Data, Information and Knowledge: Health care Data, Information and Knowledge starts with a review of health care data and the utilization and limitations of this data in developing health care information and knowledge of the patient and patient populations being served. Topics in this unit include: data sources and flow; converting data to information and information to knowledge; the design, development and maintenance of data warehouses; clinical data standards and data governance, and; nomenclature systems.
Clinical Decision Support and Evidence Based Clinical Care: Clinical decision support is one the fundamental functions of clinical informatics. Clinical decision support systems (CDSS) are important health care technologies used to promote evidence based practice. Topics in this unit include: decision support science and probability theory; types of CDS systems, CDSS benefits, risks and drawbacks; design, testing, implementation and evaluation of clinical decision support tools; sources of clinical evidence and evidence grading systems, and clinical guideline development and evidence based informatics.
Computer Sciences in Health Care: A basic understanding of some of the fundamentals of the computer sciences is key to mastering clinical informatics. To accomplish this, students will study: general computer systems design and control; programming languages, control structures; computer systems architecture; network architecture, design and topology; database design; IT security, and; mobile technology in health care.
Challenges and Opportunities in Deployed Electronic Health Records: This unit covers several issues related to ‘real world challenges’ of electronic health records (EHR) in the health care clinical setting including: Human Computer Interface (HCI) and interface design guidelines and challenges; Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) and electronic prescribing; telemedicine and the continuum of care; the personal health record (PHR), and; Health Information Exchanges (HIE): challenges and opportunities.
Health Data Analytics and ‘Big Data’ Use and Management: Health care data sets are large, complex and growing rapidly. Effectively managing and using large data sets is key to improving care and clinical processes. In this unit students learn how data and data analytic tools are used by providers and payers to improve quality, patient outcomes and patient safety. Students also learn about data mining techniques, artificial intelligence and machine learning and predictive analytics.
Current Topics in Clinical Informatics: This unit consists of a review current literature regarding topical issues in Clinical Informatics affecting health care operations. Students review and critically analyze the literature, engage in group discussions about these topics and develop position papers on each subject reviewed to propose solutions to the challenges identified in the papers reviewed.
Clinical Informatics Workflow, Process Improvement and Patient Safety: In this final unit of the certificate program, and year 1 of the Master’s Degree, students study key elements of workflow analysis that can be used to guide the implementation of new health care technology as well as to improve utilization of deployed systems. Topics covered include planning for the introduction of health care technology into the care setting, as well as key aspects of change management.
- Master’s Degree, Year 2
Advanced Data Analytics: In advanced data analytics student receive in-depth instruction in managing and analyzing big data sets, and get hands-on training in the use of powerful analytical tools. This unit covers the fundamental processes required to extract useable data from multiple large clinical data sets, how to formulate queries to extract information from the data, and how to present the data in a way that can be acted on by clinicians in the treatment of patients and patient populations.
Interoperability: In order to effectively treat patients and patient populations, clinicians and health care organizations must exchange complex data such as radiology reports, lab orders and results, histopathology reports, genetic testing results, etc., especially in a machine readable form. This requires common standards of measurement, nomenclature and transmission. In this unit students learn about the processes, technologies, standards and standard development processes required to support the flow of information across the health care continuum.
Domains of Biomedical Informatics: In this unit students receive in-depth instruction in other domains of BMI including bioinformatics, translational informatics, imaging informatics, health informatics, consumer informatics and population health informatics. BMI investigates and supports reasoning, modeling, simulation, experimentation, and translation across the spectrum from molecules to individuals and to populations, from biological to social systems, bridging basic and clinical research and practice and the health care enterprise.
Current Informatics Research: In this unit, students will review relevant research in preparation for their final capstone project.
Final Project (Computer Information System Design and Implementation, Computer Information System Project Planning, Capstone Project: The second semester of year 2 of the Master’s Degree program is devoted to planning and implementing a complete clinical informatics project at a local health care organization. These projects can take on many different forms ranging from creation of a physician dash board to designing a mobile app. Students work under the supervision of a clinical informatics professional and take the lead in all phases of design, implementation planning and roll-out. Students work with other clinicians to identify a problem or need, and develop a robust solution to that addresses this need.
In order to eligible for admission, you should have earned or plan to earn a bachelor's or advanced degree in a field related to health care from an institution accredited by a regional accreditor that is recognized by both the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
- A completed application form for the graduate program, including an official transcript from the most recent accredited institution attended. Or for licensed medical professionals, a copy of current active license.
- Be either a U.S. citizen or be a permanent resident.
- Proficiency in keyboarding, and in written and spoken English.
- Application Information
The application includes the following:
- Personal statement describing your professional goals in pursuing a degree in clinical informatics.
- Curriculum vitae
- Three letters of reference from individuals familiar with the applicant’s academic or professional achievement.
- $100 application fee
- Selection Timeline
The application deadline is July 15, 2019. Applications will be processed as they are received. Select candidates will be invited to complete a telephone interview with a member of the Program Committee. All decisions will be communicated no later than August 1, 2019, with classes beginning September 2019.
- Matriculation Requirements
- Confirmation of a bachelor's or advanced degree from an institution accredited by a regional accreditor that is recognized by both the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
- Official transcripts from the most recent institution you have attended.
- Criminal background check
- WMed health forms and required immunizations
- Controlled substances testing
Cost of attendance includes tuition, utilities, food, transportation, and miscellaneous personal expenses. This information is available on the financial aid webpage.
Consumer Information and Campus Safety
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