The Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University has announced the launch of an online Master of Science in Management of Health Informatics and Analytics program. The HealthInformatics@GW program will begin in January 2017 and is designed to develop the next generation of health innovators through a focus on leveraging data analytics and IT-based solutions. Here, contributor Julie Potyraj, the MPH@GW Community Manager, talks with the program's director, Sam Hanna, about the future of health informatics and data in healthcare:
Julie Potyraj: Could you start by telling us a bit about what “healthcare informatics” is?
Sam Hanna: Healthcare informatics is a multidisciplinary study that uses healthcare information technology to improve outcomes, reduce cost, improve quality, and ultimately drive innovation into the healthcare industry.
JP: Why are we starting to hear more about it?
SH: The field has been evolving for a few years. We’ve gone from the healthcare IT stage to healthcare informatics, data, and analytics. What that really means is that all of our jobs are going to change over the next few years. Healthcare informatics is going to be essential to everything that we do in the healthcare field. You really cannot do healthcare without data nowadays. The more data we have, the more we need to be able to analyze it, dissect it, treat it, and derive better decisions to improve patient outcomes.
JP: How big is the demand for healthcare informatics professionals?
SH: We believe the demand for healthcare informatics professionals is going to be huge. The reason why it’s going to be huge is because everything is going to revolve around data. Whether you’re a physician, a nurse, any practitioner in the healthcare field, an economist, an accountant - you name it - you have to understand how data is going to be infused in the healthcare field. Not just say what the problems are, but actually to come up with solutions.
JP: What are health informatics professionals going to be doing with all this data?
SH: When we think about wearables, electronic medical records, and things like mobile health, telehealth, and all of these advances in technology, they’re creating data for us. So with more data, we have to do something with it. Through the study of informatics, we’ll be able to take this data, analyze it, and make better decisions based on the results. Whether it’s your Fitbit, your smartphone, or whatever other device that will be invented over the next few years, they’re all going to generate more data and more demand for data.
Healthcare is being disrupted on a daily basis through these new technologies. This is fantastic for us from an industry perspective because it makes it more efficient. It makes us more innovative. It also helps us reduce cost — and through the use of data and really understanding and analyzing this data, ultimately, what we can address is the patient’s health outcome.
JP: The Affordable Care Act has created new regulations for hospitals and healthcare systems. What is the role of health informatics professionals in that process?
SH: Healthcare informatics professionals have been involved in the ACA since its inception. In the early stages it was about moving from paper to technology to the electronic medical records. Then it was about meaningful use and how do we demonstrate the meaningful use of these technologies. Now, we’re at the stage of we have done all of this and have enormous amounts of data that in some cases hospitals don’t know what to do with. That’s where we would come in. Healthcare informatics professionals are the ones that are going to be able to really make sense of this chaos, all of this data, and drive that information to make better decisions for improving patient outcomes.