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.

Use Your Career to Reduce Stress for Others

How Does Therapeutic Behavior Management Relate to Business?

Not only are these tips useful to Human Resources professionals, but they can help us all deal to stress in our work lives.

More than 80% of workers in the United States admit to having job-related stress. This continued stress frequently leads to burnout, which can affect an employee’s ability to remain productive in the workplace. Therapeutic behavior management can be beneficial to any employee experiencing job-related stress.

Job Stress vs. Professional Challenges

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the perception of job stress is frequently confused with professional challenges. These two concepts are not one and the same.

Job stress leads to unhealthy physical and emotional reactions, whereas professional challenges can energize an individual both mentally and physically.

Challenges motivate professionals to master new skills that will improve their job performance. Successfully completing a challenge at work frequently leads to the same feeling of satisfaction an individual experienced following accomplishments during their college career.

A survey conducted by Northwestern National Life finds that 40% of the workers surveyed feel their jobs are very stressful. Additionally, one-fourth of employees consider their jobs to be the number one stressor in their lives.

The Effect of Job Stress on an Individual’s Health

When an individual becomes stressed, the brain begins to prepare the body to take defensive action. This defensive action is frequently referred to as the fight or flight response.

During this response:

  • The nervous system arouses and releases hormones to enhance the senses
  • Respiration deepens
  • The pulse quickens
  • Muscles become tense

Although occasional or brief episodes of stress are of little concern, stressful situations that keep the body in a continuous state of activation must be addressed.

A continued state of fight or flight activation increases the amount of wear and tear on the biological systems throughout the body. Eventually, the ability for the body to defend and repair itself becomes compromised. This increases the risk of the individual becoming ill or injured.

Reduce Stress by Changing Your Thoughts About Work

Dr. Frank Ghinassi, who has served on the board of the Academic Behavioral Health Consortium, states that in order to make it through the workday with less stress, we need to alter the way we think about work. Changing our perspective may significantly reduce the apprehension and nervousness we experience in the workplace.

Ghinassi states that it is not necessarily the facts that compel our emotions, but what we think about a particular event. Our cognitive interpretations are responsible for driving how we feel.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Job-Related Stress

The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes CBT as an effective treatment for anxiety disorders and depression.

CBT therapy is unique in that it focuses on the beliefs and thoughts a patient has, rather than a patient’s actions. Because job-related stress is frequently caused by perception, some of the strategies utilized in CBT therapy may help individuals who are dealing with job-related stress.

4 CBT-Inspired Strategies to Reduce Job-Related Stress

1. Prioritize

Stress levels begin to rise as our responsibilities increase throughout the workday. Make a list of the things you need to accomplish. Rate these tasks according to importance. Chances are that several tasks are crucial, while others are not very important. Now you can focus your attention on the crucial tasks; completing the unimportant tasks only after the crucial tasks have been addressed.

By taking the time to prioritize, you can clearly see the tasks that require immediate attention and which tasks can be addressed at your leisure; thus reducing your stress levels.

2. Create an Oasis

Whenever your attention wanders and you begin thinking stressful thoughts, Ghinassi recommends taking a break. Find a quiet place where you can perform calming non-physical exercises. These exercises may include positive imagery, deep breathing, and listening to soothing music.

3. Use Probability to Eliminate Negative Thoughts

Catastrophizing is a type of thought pattern that focuses on every possible mistake or slip up that can lead to a downfall. Besides causing stress, this kind of black-and-white thinking may cause you to have a sense of impending doom. Instead, Ghinassi suggests controlling these thoughts by weighing the likelihood – or probability – of something happening. Once you bring this technique into your regular patterns of thought, it can be a calming influence in eliminating worry about things that aren’t likely to manifest into actual problems.

4. The Cognitive Flip

If you feel as if you have lost control of a situation, you can try to curb stress levels by thinking about the things you can control. That doesn’t mean the things you can’t control won’t happen but by focusing on what you have the power to control, you are reminded that you can shape your own outcomes.

Having these behavior management tools at your disposal and knowing how to use them will help you manage stress, often before it becomes debilitating. If you are a manager, fostering some of these patterns in a general way can help your staff.

By addressing staff mental health issues, performance levels increase and a company or organization becomes a better place to work. A qualified leader in a company’s human resources department will encourage the use of these techniques by everyone in the company, when needed. They can be used to significantly improve the atmosphere and health of the work force.

Knowing methods like this to improve morale and productivity is just one small – but very effective – part of an advanced human resources education, such as a Master of Science in Human Resources Management. If you want to step up and do more for your company, look into the online master’s in human resources management offered by The University of Scranton.

DBA Program Research Award Presented 

At The University of Scranton’s Kania School of Management Annual Accounting Dinner on May 3, 2018, Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) student Marcus Burke received the first ever Dr. Douglas M. Boyle DBA Outstanding Research Award recognizing his exceptional research efforts with University of Scranton Accounting faculty. Burke, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Composition from Old Dominion University and Master’s degree in Management from Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC), began pursuing his DBA at The University of Scranton in August 2017 as a member of the program’s flagship cohort. Prior to returning for his terminal degree, Burke gained professional experience at CMA CGM (America) LLC as a Database Administrator and Web Application Developer before being promoted to a Business Architect, TAMUC as a Senior Web Developer, and TAMUC and Marist College as an adjunct faculty member teaching in the areas of Accounting Information Systems, Systems Analysis and Design, Data Information and Management, and Enterprise Resource Planning.

During his first year in the DBA program, Burke completed and submitted a research article with Drs. Douglas M. Boyle and Daniel P. Mahoney to Management Accounting Quarterly entitled “Goodwill Accounting: The Matter of Serial Non-Impairment.” This research uses thirteen years of archival data covering 1,646 firms from Compustat and Thompson ONE to examine the number of firm acquisitions and their respective goodwill impairment rates to determine the existence of notable trends related to the non-impairment of goodwill among firms with high business combination rates. 

Burke has also co-authored a case with Drs. Megan Burke and Sandra Gates entitled “To Amend or Not to Amend: A Tax Consulting Case” which appears in the Journal of Accounting Education (2017). Currently, he is working with Dr. Megan Burke on research related to managerial ability and its relation to a firm’s tax posture, and with Drs. Sandra Gates and Megan Burke on an article for the Accounting History Review on Benjamin Montgomery and the role of slavery on the development of American accounting. 

When asked about his experience with being part of The University of Scranton’s DBA Program, Burke stated, “During my time in the DBA program, I have interacted with the professors in a variety of settings, both inside and outside the classroom. Within that time, and during those interactions, I have been consistently and thoroughly impressed with their enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment to academic excellence. The life-lessons and knowledge conveyed within the classroom are uniquely targeted to help guide and propel students toward future success. As program director, Dr. Douglas M. Boyle makes a noticeable and concerted effort to bring in individuals from both the academy and the professional world to establish a high level of knowledge transference and create relationship building between his students and the global community.” 

Burke, originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, currently lives in Poughkeepsie, New York, with his wife, Megan, an accounting professor a Marist College, and his two children, Justin and Evelyn. He continues to enjoy playing music and playing taxi driver for his children’s extracurricular activities. 

“As program director, Dr. Douglas M. Boyle makes a noticeable and concerted effort to bring in individuals from both the academy and the professional world to establish a high level of knowledge transference and create relationship building between his students and the global community.”

To learn more about the DBA program at The University of Scranton, click here.

New Research and Technologies for DPT Students!

Professor Peter Leininger, Ph.D., of the Physical Therapy Department at The University of Scranton, said there are amazing new technologies in exercise science that are revolutionizing the field, shortening the time from surgery to full recovery.

Among the most exciting is blood flow restriction (BFR) therapy. Essentially, a tourniquet is wrapped around the upper or lower extremity, with controlled and monitored blood flow restriction to the muscles and joints of the knee, hip, ankle, shoulder, elbow or wrist, which greatly hastens the rehabilitation process.

Dr. Leininger, the only physical therapist in the Scranton area currently certified in BFR, explained that the method started in the military, then spread to professional sports and is now being used by major universities, clinics and hospitals to treat their injured athletes.

In January, Dr. Leininger and his students will present their BFR research (a systematic review) at the annual American Physical Therapy Association’s national conference in Washington, D.C.  They are also completing a second systematic review studying the effect of BFR training with the older adult population.

Several research studies are planned at the University utilizing the BFR Delphi unit (currently the only FDA approved blood flow restriction device). The BFR device is being used on campus with several patients following ACL reconstruction to their knees.

“What is clear is that light-load exercise with a tourniquet that is used properly is safe and effective,” said Dr. Leininger, whose department owns the aforementioned Delfi device.  “It’s a very good way to do light-weight resistance exercise where you don’t damage what was repaired, and recovery is demonstrably faster, decreasing the time necessary to develop increased muscle mass and strength of the injured or surgically repaired region of the body.”

He says this latest therapy modality is being used more widely following knee surgery, including anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, as well as rotator cuff, hip and ankle surgical procedures.

University Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) graduate students who will be presenting their research at the upcoming conference in January are Matthew Aitken ’17, Edison, New Jersey; Omar Amer, Scotch Plains, New Jersey; Berta Carmo, Parsippany, New Jersey; Sophia DiCamillo ’17, Abington; Christine Kiefer ’17, Wantagh, New York; Dannylyn Manabat, Long Beach, California; and Jonathan Mayes, Dublin (PA).

Physical Therapy Professor Peter Leininger, Ph.D., demonstrates BFR therapy using the BFR Delphi unit and light-load exercise with a tourniquet with the help of DPT student Stephanie Klug, Mooresville, North Carolina. BFR therapy has been shown to greatly hasten the rehabilitation process. Dr. Leininger is currently the only physical therapist in the Scranton area certified in BFR.

Peter Leininger, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy, demonstrates blood flow restriction (BFR) therapy using the BFR Delphi unit and light-load exercise with a tourniquet, which has been shown to greatly hasten the rehabilitation process. Dr. Leininger and his students will present their BFR research (a systematic review) at the annual American Physical Therapy Association’s national conference in Washington, D.C. in January. From left: Dr. Leininger and DPT graduate students Matthew Aitken ’17, Edison, New Jersey; Omar Amer, Scotch Plains, New Jersey; Stephanie Klug, Mooresville, North Carolina (demonstrating the therapy); Berta Carmo, Parsippany, New Jersey; Jonathan Mayes, Dublin (PA); Dannylyn Manabat, Long Beach, California; Christine Kiefer ’17, Wantagh, New York; and Sophia DiCamillo ’17, Abington.

Learn more about the DPT program here.

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.
____________________________________________________________________
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