Health Informatics & Research

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Advancing Informatics through Research and Investigation

Research into various aspects of informatics is more active and voluminous than might appear on the surface. During your health informatics master’s program, you will likely review surveys that look at the adoption rates of various health information technologies. These studies focus on the growth in the use of patient portals and best practices in data collection and distribution.

While this is extremely valuable knowledge, there is much more underway in the area of health informatics research. Take IBM for example. The computing giant has several teams dedicated to improving the way health informatics data is collected and used.

The Cognitive Solutions & Foundations department at IBM Research – Almaden is actively seeking new ways to apply information technology to improve healthcare delivery to all patient populations. Their work is focused on three key areas of study and opportunity:

  • Improving clinical decision making through enhanced analytics that leverage data mining technologies to facilitate faster diagnosis, exploration of clinical trials, and more.
  • Creating tools and technologies that can help to simplify data integration throughout the healthcare setting by improving the way that systems operate with one another.
  • Supporting global public efforts by making critical health data more accessible in order to address emerging threats, forecast and model occurrences of disease events, and improve reporting capabilities.

Perhaps the most prolific source of health informatics study is centered at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The AHRQ is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dozens of studies are in progress thanks to grants received by the AHRQ, as well as academic research being funded by the Agency.

One main focus of the AHRQ research is in the area of bioterrorism and the ability of clinicians to diagnose and report any incidences of potential or perceived threats. There is a special emphasis on diseases like anthrax, smallpox and tuberculosis that can spread across a large population in a short period of time. Systems and training resulting from some of the earliest research are already in use to help identify, track, and minimize the risk of any outbreaks.

The other studies underway via the AHRQ are centered on patient safety, specific disease states, and informatics systems as a whole. Research runs the gamut from evaluating the effectiveness of handheld technologies to reducing medication errors in nursing homes to using genotype databases to support clinical decision making.