Why do students need five key courses in a Master's of Health Informatics program? Documents once stored in file folders—which themselves were housed in large, gray, steel filing cabinets—are now routinely deposited electronically onto hard drives or in the cloud. This technology increases storage capacity exponentially and gives rise to a new scientific application called informatics. Big Data, as it has come to be called, requires bright and imaginative minds to act as its stewards.
Health Informatics Evaluation Methods
The evaluation methods class is an essential component of the five key courses in a Master's of Health Informatics program. The scientific method is used to appraise different health care information applications. In so doing, students can determine the efficacy, thoroughness and drawbacks of the technological applications in question. Areas of possible improvement are reviewed while costs and benefits are analyzed. Furthermore, the course focuses on technical applications currently in use and on cutting edge resources still in development.
Major Policy Issues in Health Information Technology
Of the five key courses in a Master's of Health Informatics program, one must definitely review the policy implications. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act (and possible repeal), informatics managers are hard pressed to comply with regulations governing big data. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 was a primary catalyst in mandating electronic health records among providers and is thus a centerpiece of this course. In addition, the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a must-know for records managers.
The U.S. Health Care System
Another core among the five key courses in a Master's in Health Informatics program is this survey class that looks at the networks and management of health care institutions in the United States. Hospitals, medical practices, insurance companies, independent test laboratories and other allied health providers are more interconnected than ever before. How do health care organizations interact financially, medically and—most germane—electronically? Financing sources and schemes are studied, as well as quality control standards and medical education. Access to professional care; recruitment and retention of personnel; and types of health care facilities all fall under this curriculum.
Consumer Health Informatics
A major goal of contemporary health care is keeping patients and their families abreast of the process. Consumer informatics involves keeping patients actively involved in their own care: having patient histories available; enlightening consumers on medical procedures and preventive care; and designing intervention technologies that improve medical care and wellness. Monitoring patient progress and communicating necessary diagnoses likewise involve consumer health informatics. For example, smart phones now enable providers with the capacity to "tele-monitor" patients at home, saving time and money.
Epidemiology, of course, long predates informatics as a profession and field of scientific study. However, informatics managers must know epidemiological principles if they are to organize, store and retrieve the fruits of its research. Master's candidates will examine the various metrics utilized in epidemiology, and will also consider how population research is designed and conducted. Moreover, they will review case studies with regard to disease outbreaks, health screenings and public health policy evolution. Knowing more about the source of their data helps informatics professionals to better marshal it for later use.
Big Data is in health care to stay. Medical practices, hospitals, related industries and non-profits will need health informatics experts to handle it all. And handle it they will with these five key courses in a master's in health informatics program under their belts.