Health informatics, broadly speaking, is the application of information technology to care delivery. The field is arguably now at a "tipping point" because of the relatively recent widespread adoption of electronic record and other digital systems for use by both providers and patients. Because of that, we are now, at least in theory, able to aggregate data from millions of patient encounters in order to analyze it to gain new knowledge and to obtain feedback on the quality and efficiency of the care those patients received. Of course, it's not that simple and in this module we'll explore some of the unique structural issues of US healthcare and what the federal government has been doing to bridge those issues in order to create what the Institute of Medicine calls a "learning health system" -- a continuously improving system based on data from the applications of information technology just described.
Through this course even non-technical students can gain basic proficiency in health informatics: the application of computing to healthcare delivery, public health and community-based clinical research. The overall course paradigm is the Institute of Medicine's vision of a "Learning Health System" that uses data from actual patient care to gain new knowledge and feeds that knowledge back as care is delivered to achieve a safer, higher quality and more cost effective health delivery system.
Module 1: Covers the US healthcare delivery system's unique structural, economic and policy issues and the strategic role for health informatics. It also looks at the federal programs to encourage adoption of electronic record systems.
Module 2: Gives a high level overview of some key health standards with a particular emphasis on the new Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) standard.
Module 3: Explores how these technologies are being deployed and some of their current limitations using specific commercial and open source systems as examples. It features an interview with the developers of an innovative, new EHR.
Module 4: Presents examples of cutting edge research using "big data" and shows how analytic based tools are helping overcome some of the challenges posed in the prior module. It features an interview with developers of a innovative cloud-based service to bring together datasets and analytic tools from diverse sources. Optionally, as the course progresses, students read the instructor’s book, Practitioner's Guide to Health Informatics.
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