Education - Page 10 - Critical demand, from page 6

- Page 10
Critical demand, from page 6
in professional studies degree in health information technology.

The degree prepares them for work in fields as varied as clinical care informatics, research and clinical trials, government and consulting.

“Not only does it provide students with technical information technology skills, but it also provides a pragmatic understanding of the health care system, which has its own terminology,” says Krystl Haerian, M.D., graduate program director of health information technology and professor of practice at UMBC.

The program, which is just two-and-a-half years old, also attracts international students “who want to address health disparities in their own country,” she adds.

The 30-credit-hour degree can be completed in as little as 18 months, but students who want to take just one or two courses per semester can complete it within three years. About 40 percent of the students are working full time, including those who are nurses, respiratory therapists and IT professionals. The program offers hybrid course options.

An important part of what students learn is not just what IT can do, but what its limitations are – especially when it comes to electronic medical  records. Those who
specialize in health IT may find themselves making recommendations for modifications that improve usability to the commercial companies that develop software.

A computer background is not required to enter the program; once enrolled students take a basic computer program course that addresses how to do data queries and structure those queries to pull data out of electronic medical records.

Students take six core courses in subjects such as data analytics, health informatics, law and ethics and a capstone course, and then select electives, which allow them to tailor their studies to their own interests.

They also work on team-based projects, which prepare them for the work environment. Students also learn clinical decision support systems, such as helping a physician plan a clinical trial and then using IT to monitor it, providing alerts if adverse reactions occur.

IT is also an important tool to find relationships among drugs that are already FDA approved, by using quantitative structural analysis tools to look at mechanisms.

Laura Humber, 23, majored in health administration and policy as an undergraduate at UMBC. “Health information technology was something I never thought I’d land into – but it’s such an up and coming field,” she says. “There are so many job opportunities.”

She’s particularly enjoying interacting with those who have been working in their respective fields. She also liked that her instructors urged her “to find a topic you really love and become an expert at it. Find something you’re passionate about.”

Her goal is to focus on research, particularly informatics with research involving opioids and opioid addiction.

“People think when you say, ‘IT’ that you’re dealing with computers,” Humber says, “but it’s making computers work for you and get you the information you need.” •