New Master’s of Health Informatics to merge two academic programs

By Alex O'Connor, For the Daily
Published January 24, 2012

In response to the rapidly growing demand for education in the fields of information technology and public health, the University plans to launch a new Master’s program in Health Informatics this fall.

The program will be directed by Charles Friedman, former chief scientific officer for Health Information and Technology in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Meghan Genovese, senior associate director of Health Informatics. The program will combine material from both the School of Information and the School of Public Health, and offer students the opportunity to obtain a degree from both programs — making it the only program in the University for which a degree will be attributed to more than one school.

Genovese described Health Informatics as the development of methods and information technology that capitalizes on the digital age by collecting, analyzing, storing and communicating health-related information.

“Health Informatics is about planning for the ‘problem after next,’ in today’s healthcare system,” Genovese said.

The Health Informatics program will combine the “innovative and problem solving techniques” of the School of Information with the School of Public Health’s “knowledge of healthcare of populations as well as their ability to influence individuals to live more healthy lifestyles,” Friedman said.

He added that the University’s blend of information technology and public health expertise provides a forward-thinking faculty that will prepare the next generation to meet the needs of the expanding U.S. health care system.

“There is widespread agreement that informational technology will be vital in solving the problems of the healthcare industry,” Friedman said.

School of Information Dean Jeffrey MacKie-Mason said an aging population and a wealthier society have contributed to the growing demand for educational opportunities in health-related information technology, and careers in areas like health analysis, hospital administration and health insurance.

“Cost of health care will soon become one of the single most important expenditures in the United States,” MacKie-Mason said. “ … It is because of this that there are a lot more demands for informational technology in the healthcare system.”

LSA senior Kyle Heckaman wrote in an e-mail interview that he is applying to the Health Informatics program for the fall because it will allow him to utilize a variety of academic skills.

Heckaman added that he is considering working in a hospital as an information officer, and that a degree in Health Informatics would help him use available information to address deficiencies in the health care industry.

“After I realized that direct patient care was not for me, I still wanted to remain in a health-related field, one that would allow me to utilize the quantitative and analytical skills I learned while at studying biochemistry,” Heckaman wrote. “A degree in health informatics will allow me to do both of those things.”