Alumni Spotlight – Finding Career Success with a Health Informatics Degree

Patrick Wende, M.S., explains how the Master’s in Health Informatics supports his career path

We talked to Patrick about his experience in the Health Informatics program, his new position, and the future of the health informatics field.

Tell us about yourself and how you decided to pursue a Master of Science in Health Informatics at The University of Scranton.

My name is Patrick Wende and am originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania. I attended The University of Scranton as an undergraduate, studying exercise science and sports. While I found that field fascinating, it wasn’t the career field I was looking for.

By chance, I landed in a role at a local hospital teaching professionals how to use electronic health record software, and found that the health informatics field was the field for me. After being in health informatics for some time, I decided to pursue a graduate degree and chose to return to The University of Scranton. My choice was largely due to the history I had with the school, and my knowledge of the quality of education I would get—notwithstanding it being a brand new degree program.

How did the program fit into your job?

Throughout the program I worked at Geisinger, a local health system, managing their trauma registry. Though very data- and writing-intensive, this position allowed me to interact with clinical and administrative professionals to understand where health technology fit into their workflow and the changing landscape of health care.

One course, healthcare policy management, impacted my work immediately. While it was taught mostly using the government as an example, the principles were very easily translatable to the private organizational healthcare structure as well. The course explored how the policy process functions when considering the need for political momentum and effective change management. Combined with my experience in interacting with administrators, this knowledge completely changed my perception of the field.

Working with these administrators helped me better understand why processes and policies I’ve experienced in the past have or have not worked. The overall impact of the ways process and policy are enacted, changed and managed was a major eye-opener for me, and I’ll be using that information forever.

How did you balance your data- and writing-intensive job with your coursework?

It was a challenge, no doubt. I was fortunate to have a supervisor at my job that was very understanding of the challenges that I would be undergoing as a student and a full-time professional, and she was flexible with me.

I know that’s something not every student will have. It certainly is a challenge to maintain 40-plus hours of work per week and the student workload, but you just have to develop a new routine. You prioritize your time in such a way that you can complete your work and school work while still having time for yourself.

Scranton’s course structure made it much easier to build this routine. The workload is laid out by week, so you aren’t overburdened with a mass amount of work to do all at once.

What project did you do for your capstone course?

My capstone project took me to a wide variety of facilities in the Geisinger system to compare and analyze how the same process worked at four different hospitals. My job was to document the differences between them, their strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities for process standardization across the hospitals.

I had to learn to work with each stakeholder group impacted by the process; otherwise, I’d have only bits and pieces of the information vital to understanding the process as a whole.

There were so many moving parts, regardless of location, that it required me to confirm information at various levels. That aspect was astonishing in and of itself—realizing just how many layers of personnel you need to explore to effectively document a process.

How does technology fit into health informatics?

The field is growing more technical. Informaticists—a common health informatics title—work as the intermediary between clinical and technical personnel. When I was looking for new professional opportunities, many informaticist positions required a solid technical base and were seeking candidates who weren’t afraid of learning new technologies.

Essentially, if you’re interested in pursuing this field, you need to be willing to embrace the idea of new and developing technology.

In my current role, I will be able to use many of the skills the program teaches that are geared toward informaticists—again, that link between the clinical and technical. But, if you were to draw a spectrum with technical on one end and clinical on the other, you wouldn’t be able to place the informaticist right in the middle. They would be more toward the technical end of the spectrum. At least that’s what I’ve experienced in my role, and I think that goes for the majority of informaticist positions as well.

Do you need a technical background for Scranton’s program?

You don’t need to be very technical to get through the program, but as the field skews more toward the technical side, the curriculum is sure to follow. Scranton’s program introduces technical topics in early courses and gives students a base from which to gain job-specific skills.

I get a lot of built-in education at my current job, especially as I’m learning the specific software that we use. The degree prepares you to enter the workforce, you just have to know that part of being an informaticist is learning how technology fits into your specific position.

Finally, do you have any advice for prospective students?

The health care field is very interesting and has a wide range of opportunities, offers, and room for a diverse workforce. Students should take any opportunities to speak to or shadow people in the field to make sure that it’s the field they want to be in because it’s so unique.

 

The University of Scranton’s Master of Science in Health Informatics program is at the cutting edge of this emerging field.

Transforming Patient Care with Technology

In today’s health care fields, technology is ever changing and progressing at a rapid pace. From patient satisfaction to innovative engagement interaction, the health care industry is paving the way for collecting and analyzing data.

The Affordable Care Act provides hospitals incentive to provide better care while at the same time increasing patient satisfaction. Because patients have more choices than ever, it is important that hospitals encourage innovative and effective patient engagement.

The way technology is progressing today, is by having patients participate in their own healthcare.

Healthcare providers are empowering their patients by encouraging them to track their own health progress from diagnosis through treatment and even into recovery via handheld devices (mobile and tablet).

Patients are using two-way communication to connect directly, by receiving medical notifications via mobile apps and asking doctors questions in real time. By removing the human error of not following up with doctor referrals, automatic referral requests are now being sent ensuring the continued care of patients.

Electronic medical records (EMRs) are just the tip of the technology iceberg. Now, the industry is using data warehouses to not only keep providers informed, but they are enhancing patient care by bringing a broad data range of figures together to predict the best methods of care. Metrics such as outcomes, lifestyle, biometric, and genomic data points are being combined together to create smarter approaches to care.

The future for the healthcare industry is bright. Products like electronic underpants used for bedridden patients to prevent bedsores, and bacteria killing light bulbs are currently being tested. Machines like robotic smart nurses are being invented and produced to assist human nurses with daily activities like moving patients between beds by wheelchair.

Click the infographic below to see the impact technology is having on the health care industry and improving patient care.

Cybersecurity: What Health Informatics Professionals Need to Know

Health informatics is one of the hottest areas of health care. But the fact that it forms the junction of health care and information technology makes it an attractive target for cybercriminals. They have proven adept at infiltrating health care institutions using a variety of tactics.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights, for example, provides a Breach Portal with some startling statistics.1 The portal shows that data about more than 120 million people have been compromised in more than 1,100 separate breaches at organizations handling protected health data since 2009.

The reason attacks can successfully skip past the various layers of health care security technology in place is that cybercrime has evolved to encompass many different attack vectors. For many years, web-based threats posed the most danger to organizations. But according to Osterman Research surveys2, email is now the top avenue of infiltration into organizations, with social media becoming the fastest-growing sector of concern within cybersecurity.

Health informatics professionals dealing with the security of patient information, therefore, may find that existing defenses are aligned more with web-based threats while the email channel is relatively poorly protected – hence the rise of phishing in its various forms as the bane of the health care security world.

Phishing:

Phishing emails are sent to large numbers of users simultaneously and attempt to “fish” sensitive information from unsuspecting users by posing as reputable sources. In health care, the ploy is to trick the user into either clicking on a link to infect the PC, open an infected attachment, or go to a fake health care website to enter login credentials, financial information, social security data, or credit card details. According to the Verizon 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report3, 30% of recipients open phishing messages. Another 12% click on attachments.

Spearphishing:

Spearphishing is a targeted form of phishing aimed at specific individuals or a small group. The instigator has studied the health care provider, gathered information from social media sites, and is determined to con a hospital administrator or clerk into handing over the keys to the kingdom. With data such as travel plans, family details, employment history, and various medical affiliations being on public view in Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, emails that seem to be legitimate often successfully fool users into compromising the network.

Watering holes:

A watering hole is a place you tend to visit frequently and which is trusted. This might be a regularly used website, a partner’s portal, or a vendor marketplace. By compromising that location, the bad guys seek to piggyback one’s access into the corporate network.

Misleading/Malicious Websites:

Cybercriminals have gotten clever about registering website URLs similar to legitimate health-care sites4. Healthcare.gov, for example, has Healthcare.com, Healthcare.org, Healthcare.net, Health-Care.org, and Obamacare.com piggybacking off its good name, with many of these sites looking for personal information.

Medical Device Insecurity:

As medical systems and devices adopt more wireless and web-based technologies, the risk of exposure to malware magnifies. This is so much the case that the Food and Drug Administration issued an alert about cybersecurity to manufacturers of medical devices, and hospitals with regard to their networks.5 In essence, embedded computer systems inside medical devices can be compromised or even used to infiltrate health care security networks and databases. Hospital networks may are vulnerable because of unauthorized access, and out of date antivirus software and firewalls.

Ransomware:

Perhaps the most dangerous threat to the health care industry is ransomware . Instead of merely infecting systems with nuisance ads or spam, such an attack shuts down a desktop, a server, or an entire network. The most famous strain is the Cryptolocker malware and its numerous variants, which encrypt files and demand a ransom in order to receive the key to decrypt the files.

Improving Healthcare Security

As a result of threats such as these, the discipline of health informatics demands a deep understanding of cybersecurity.

In addition to data analytics, mobile health, population health, and mobile health apps, The University of Scranton Online Master of Science in Health Informatics program gives graduates a grounding in health-care security. This includes how to combat web-borne threats, how to detect network incursions as soon as they occur, how to isolate suspicious behavior and detect malware that has found its way past the firewalls, and how to develop strategies to defend against phishing, and more. Armed with these skills, those graduating from the program are going to be a sought-after commodity in the job market.

 

To learn more about Health Informatics education at The University of Scranton, click here.

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Sources:

  1. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights. (n.d.). Breach portal. Retrieved from https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/breach/breach_report.jsf
  2. Cimpanu, C. (2016). One in five companies gets malware infections via social media. Retrieved from http://news.softpedia.com/news/one-in-five-companies-get-malware-infections-via-social-media-502603.shtml
  3. (2016). Verizon 2016 Data breach investigations report, Retrieved from http://www.verizonenterprise.com/verizon-insights-lab/dbir/
  4. Ristau, V. (2013). Technically speaking, health informatics cybersecurity/Main categories of risk. Retrieved from http://blogs.dlt.com/health-informatics-cybersecurity-main-categories-risk/
  5. Food and Drug Administration. (2013). FDA Safety Communications: Cybersecurity for medical devices and hospital Networks Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/ucm356423.htm
    (2016). White Paper: How to transform employee worst practices into best practiceshttps://info.knowbe4.com/whitepaper-employee-worst-best-practices-enterprise-security

7 Must-Have Skills for Hospital Administrators

The primary role of hospitals is to administer quality care, but, behind the scenes, hospitals are large institutions that run like any big business. That’s why successful hospital administrators must combine a passion for the well-being of patients with managerial know-how.

The former may be why you entered the health care field in the first place, but developing business skills could help you take your career to the next level. Not sure how to build those skills? Enrolling in an advanced educational program, such as The University of Scranton’s online Master of Health Administration program, will help you improve in the areas where you may need some help.

The top skills you’ll need to be a successful hospital administrator include:

  1. Industry Knowledge

The health care industry can be extremely competitive and receiving a master’s degree can take your career even further. The mostrespected master’s in health administration programs in the country are backed by The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME), the only organization that can officially recognize programs offering a master’s in healthcare management. Employers know that job applicants with a CAHME-accredited MHA have received a quality education, honed the necessary skills and built a network of industry contacts, all of which helps them excel as hospital administrators. As one of the only CAHME-accredited online MHA programs, The University of Scranton’s Master of Health Administration degree gives graduates a leg up on the competition when applying for jobs.

  1. Leadership

Hospital administrators are the executives of the hospital. On a big-picture level, they are expected to inspire the organization to deliver the best care possible.1 Day-to-day responsibilities include overseeing staff and ushering in new policies. Leadership skills, as well as an ability to command respect, are necessary to excel in the role.

  1. Critical Thinking2

CAHME-accredited MHA programs arm future healthcare leaders with the analytical skills they need to determine the best course of action for their hospital. The job calls for solutions-oriented professionals who can make informed decisions by looking closely at data and predetermined goals.

  1. Relationship Building

Within the course of a day, a hospital administrator might interact with doctors, the hospital’s governing board and members of its finance team.3  Building strong relationships every step of the way and communicating effectively can rally staff behind a common cause and help keep the organization running smoothly. Establishing trust is key, as is making decisions that align with the long-term goals of the organization.4

  1. Ethical Judgment

Healthcare administrators must have high ethical standards.5  Many of the hospital’s decisions fall on the administrator and possessing a steadfast moral compass ensures the right ones will be made.6 The University of Scranton’s Master of Health Administration builds Jesuit values into the program to ensure graduates are ready to make ethical decisions in the field.

  1. Adaptability7

This is an exciting, yet challenging, time to be in the healthcare industry: Baby boomers are expected to live longer than previous generations, which will place more demand on hospitals, and the Affordable Care Act has changed the way care is provided and how it’s paid for.8Adaptability is a key skill if hospital administrators want to keep up with the ever-shifting healthcare landscape—and they will need to. Administrators must be willing to challenge the status quo and usher in appropriate changes.

  1. Quick Thinking

Doctors and staff turn to hospital administrators for both big decisions and small ones. Administrators should be comfortable making decisions on the fly, but they also need to readily take responsibility for the success and failure of these decisions.9

 

For more information about The University of Scranton’s graduate MHA programs, click here.

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Sources:

  1. Stefl, M. (2008). Common competencies for all healthcare managers: the healthcare leadership alliance model. Retrieved from http://www.healthcareleadershipalliance.org/Common%20Competencies%20for%20All%20Healthcare%20Managers.pdf
  2. Cyprus, J. (2016). 7 skills you must have to be a great hospital administrator. Retrieved from http://www.healthworkscollective.com/jennacyprus/333819/7-skills-you-must-have-be-great-hospital-administrator
  3. Cyprus, J. (2016). 7 skills you must have to be a great hospital administrator. Retrieved from http://www.healthworkscollective.com/jennacyprus/333819/7-skills-you-must-have-be-great-hospital-administrator
  4. Garman, A.; Fitz, K.; Fraser, M. (2006). Communication and relationship management. Retrieved from  http://www.healthcareleadershipalliance.org/Communication%20and%20Relationship%20Mgmt.pdf
  5. Garman, A.; Fitz, K.; Fraser, M. (2006). Communication and relationship management. Retrieved from http://www.healthcareleadershipalliance.org/Communication%20and%20Relationship%20Mgmt.pdf
  6. Healthcare Management Degree Guide. What qualities would make me a good healthcare manager. Retrieved from http://www.healthcare-management-degree.net/faq/what-qualities-would-make-me-a-good-healthcare-manager/
  7. Cyprus, J. (2016). 7 skills you must have to be a great hospital administrator. Retrieved from http://www.healthworkscollective.com/jennacyprus/333819/7-skills-you-must-have-be-great-hospital-administrator
  8. Johnson, D. (2015). These charts show the baby boomers’ coming health crisis. Retrieved from http://time.com/3852306/baby-boomer-health-charts/
  9. Cyprus, J. (2016). 7 skills you must have to be a great hospital administrator. Retrieved from http://www.healthworkscollective.com/jennacyprus/333819/7-skills-you-must-have-be-great-hospital-administrator

The Surprising Necessities of Health Informatics

Experts in health informatics are becoming an integral part of the insurance industry as more insurers work with health-care providers to find cost-effective ways to enhance the quality and safety of patient care.

The Affordable Care Act has led to changes in the delivery and reimbursement of health-care services, prompting health care systems, health care providers, and insurance companies to work together to improve patient outcomes and the bottom line.

With the advent of electronic medical records, health-care providers have been turning to health informatics professionals to manage sophisticated health information systems. Insurers also are using informatics to help health-care providers enhance the quality of patient care while simultaneously reducing costs.1

Today, insurance companies rely on health informatics experts who are adept at analyzing medical data to spot emerging trends, to improve health literacy, reduce hospital readmissions and visits to the emergency room, and help individuals prevent and manage chronic and costly medical conditions.2

Labor experts expect the demand for a well-trained health informatics workforce to grow, and those holding an advanced degree are likely to have their pick of jobs. A Burning Glass Technologies analysis3 of job postings nationwide showed that health informatics jobs remain open longer than many others because of a shortage of candidates. Informatics positions constitute the eighth-largest share4 of health-care occupation postings.

The role of Big Data

The field of health informatics is at the crossroad of where health care meets information technology. Experts in this field are involved in the collection, managing, and processing of clinical and medical information. With their keen analytical skills, health informatics professionals turn data into useful information that can ultimately lead to improved clinical outcomes at a lower cost to patients, providers, and insurers.5

Insurance companies have access to a treasure trove of health data gleaned from policyholders’ billing claims, health assessments, wellness programs, lab readings, medications, family history, and more. Insurers can run computer algorithms on huge amounts of health data to better understand the health needs of their members, including identifying gaps in care plans to optimize patient care.

Building healthy communities

For example, insurers can use data to identify and assist individuals who are at risk of developing chronic and costly diseases before symptoms appear. This information can be used by health-care providers to develop patient education and wellness programs to keep people healthy.6

In addition, health informatics experts can use data to identify individuals who have a chronic illness and need help to avoid serious consequences. For example, educating diabetics on the importance of visiting their primary care provider for periodic foot checks is a cost-effective way to reduce the number of diabetics who need costly amputations and rehabilitation because their disease has progressed.

Avoiding hospital readmissions

With the cost of preventable hospital readmissions totaling $17 billion annually,7 the federal government launched an initiative that penalizes hospitals that have avoidable readmissions. Some insurers are using health informatics to identify and connect frail or sick patients who are likely to be hospitalized with free health coaches.8 These coaches can help patients by coordinating care, providing transportation to medical appointments, and resolving medication issues – all with the goal of keeping people healthy and out of the hospital.

Click here to learn more about Health Informations education at The University of Scranton.
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Sources:

1-2 & 5-6: PWC. Advancing healthcare informatics: The power of partnerships, 2016, http://www.pwc.com/ Accessed 23 August 2016.

3. http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/top-3-perks-patient-engagement

4. http://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/health-informatics-among-fastest-growing-fields/2012-06-04

7. http://revcycleintelligence.com/news/preventable-readmissions-cost-cms-17-billion

8. http://khn.org/news/insurer-uses-patients-personal-data-to-predict-who-will-get-sick