By Nicole Gennarelli
Students in the health informatics program at Kent State University are seeing the long-term benefits it can have on their career.
Health informatics is a new concentration in the Information Architecture and Knowledge Management (IAKM) program in the School of Library and Information Science.
According to the IAKM website, “Health informatics (HI) is the science that defines how health information is captured, analyzed, transmitted and managed. It focuses on information systems, informatics principles and information technology as it is applied to the continuum of health care delivery. This integrated discipline features specialty domains in management science, management engineering principles, health care delivery and public health, patient safety, information science and computer technology.”
Rachel Helbing, who obtained a Master of Library Science (M.L.I.S) from Kent State in 2007, said health informatics seemed like a perfect fit for her background.
“I worked in community mental health for two years after earning a degree in psychology from Miami University. I am currently the community health librarian for Barberton Public Library’s branch at Summa Barberton Hospital. Health informatics brings together my major interests of mental health and information,” she said. Helbing recently completed Professor Michael Bice’s Health Informatics Management class.
Health Information Management, one of the first courses in the health informatics sequence, covers planning, selection, deployment, management of electronic medical records (EMR), management decision-support and tracking systems (DSS) and other health information technologies (HIT).
Chuck Trunick, clinical research informaticist at a large local health system, is also in the Health Informatics Management class. He said this course has provided him with a broad view of the healthcare landscape and how it is evolving every day.
“I have been a successful information sciences and implementation professional with many industries for more than 30 years,” Trunick said. “I desired a formal education to learn about other perspectives of health informatics in addition to my current experiences. I believe this program will provide me with updated skills and help me learn other methods and approaches, achieve academic credentialsrecognized by the healthcare industry and open doors to other institutions to contribute to my ‘know-how’ learned and experienced over time.”
Joan King, a registered nurse for more than 30 years, said the health informatics program is “phenomenal.” She loves that she can advance her career by getting a health informatics certificate with 18 graduate hours, and then go on to obtain a master’s degree using 12 of those hours. The certificate allows her to get into the field sooner as she continues her school work.
“The past five to 10 years of change regarding the impact of health information technology has fascinated me,” King said. “This is the first online class I have taken, and I was concerned about classroom interaction, but our class discussions are phenomenal. I have learned so much through the lectures, readings and discussions. The government involvement with electronic health records is so encompassing. Through the discussions, it’s interesting to see how the government’sinvolvement will impact the adoption of the EHR either negatively or positively. This class has expanded my concept of what the EHR means to institutions, physician offices, clinicians, the patient and the delivery of health care.”
Michael O. Bice, Kent State professor and former health care executive, leads the HI program. He said the program appeals mainly to physicians, nurses and other professionals already working in health care.
“One look at the headlines will tell you that health informatics professionals are in great demand across the country, and will continue to be needed as Federal initiatives for electronic health information networks are implemented,” Bice said.
Bice added that the demographics of the first class are impressive: 58 percent have an RN degree; the average health care experience is 15 years; and most of the students are direct care givers or middle managers. Two students are in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and three are MSN/MBA students. The largest contingent of students is from the Cleveland Clinic, followed by the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and Akron General Medical Center.
For more information, visit www.kent.edu/healthIT.
Nicole is a senior public relations major and a marketing assistant for the College of Communication and Information.