UIC Professor Dr. Andy Boyd shares insights on the topic of telehealth and how informatics is making an impact.
Welcome to our webinar today. I’m Joan Ziegler, I’m one of the enrollment advisors with the University of Illinois and Chicago’s health informatics program. We want to share industry trends in technology, and help you learn how our health informatics program addresses these trends. While we’re waiting for people to join us, I want to show you and let you know that there’s a Q&A on the side of your screen. We want you to feel free to ask your questions, and we will do our best to answer your questions. And if we’re not able to get to them throughout the webinar, then we will be able to share answers to you personally. Your enrollment advisor will get back with you.
Our webinar is with Dr. Andy Boyd, and his topic is on telehealth, but we want you to know that you can ask any questions related to technology, in healthcare, and in the future. Dr. Andy Boyd is one of the faculty in our health informatics program. He has his doctor of medicine, and he came from industry, and he worked for a vendor who sold proprietary software to many of the top 10 EHR systems. He came to UIC in 2008, so he’s been with us for 10 years. He teaches and his research has been published in leading informatics’ journals. His focus is on data simplification and data integration to improve health outcomes. We’d like to welcome Dr. Andy Boyd.
Thank you for inviting me. I look forward to talking with everyone about telehealth, and telemedicine, and the exciting field of informatics. We’re gonna talk about telemedicine, which is a little bit different, but related to telehealth. While we’re talking about this exciting field, we actually do have to go back and look at the history of how we even got here. Telemedicine, the National Library of Medicine actually created a MESH heading, which is one of those terms where there’s enough research in the area, or an idea is widespread enough where they actually immortalize it in the National Library of Medicine.
By 1993, several years ago, they came up with and actually are able to label things in telemedicine. Previously, if you’ve looked back in the ’60s and ’70s, all of the research in this area used to be called telecommunications, but not the actual concept of telemedicine, but the idea of remote medicine, or delivering healthcare in remote areas of either the country, of the world, or with low resources, has been around for years. We’ll begin talking about that.
Looking back to 1992, before everyone had cell phones, before many people even had the internet in the house, it was mostly academic and government research labs who had the internet at that time. The journal articles from leading researchers talking about telemedicine. The concepts where, how does a simple phone call help with symptom management, or even something as simple as in kids, croup, how do you diagnose this? Since croup has a very distinctive cough, how do you use even a simple landline telephone?
One of the journal articles back from 1992 talks about and reviews just how telemedicine and the use of a simple phone call, and existing technologies from 1992 can extend physicians and help provide patients better outcomes. From there we’re going to go onto the future. From 1992 to today, boy, has technology changed. You see the image up there of these little self-driving computer video conferencing devices. The doctor doesn’t even need to be in the same hospital, or in the same state and in order to get video conferencing, to talk to the patient, we’ve literally built self-driving machines that will allow doctors to navigate, and try to replicate physician at the bedside.
They’re able to connect and have nurses collaborate with them, measure heart rate, listen to the heart beat, listen to their lungs, there’s lots of different functionalities. As the technology has advanced, the internet has advanced, as video conferencing has advanced, the whole concept of telemedicine and telehealth has advanced, too. However, improving health and doing it in a rigorous manner has been an area of study for many years, and we’ll begin to look at some of the peer review literature in this area.
The first study we’re going to take in examination of is telemedicine for type 2 diabetes. Within healthcare, the randomized control trial is the gold standard in order to prove a technology and intervention works. You want to make sure that it functions, the outcomes are the same, and when you’re talking about individual lives, you want randomized control trials to prove that the outcomes are equivalent. This is a study done in South Korea. It had a total of 338 adult patients, and they had three groups. One was the control group, one was telemonitoring, and the other one was telemedicine.
Telemonitoring is just receiving the data back about hemoglobin A1C, telemedicine is actually phone calls and video conferencing in order to engage. As we’re deploying the technology, does this do as well as the control group who goes into to see the doctor or the nurse practitioner on a weekly or monthly basis? When they examine the technology in the study, obviously this isn’t a blinded study. People know whether or not they’re seeing a doctor or seeing a doctor over a phone, but it is a randomized control trial.
The hemoglobin A1C, which is a three month average of how well you are controlled for your diabetes, was similar across all three groups through pairwise comparison. Even if you’re not following up face-to-face with the doctor or a nurse, the telemonitoring group and the telemedicine group in this study have the same outcome. This is the type of studies we need to conduct in order to actually convince payers, as well as clinicians, the say, “This is new technology, it’s a new way of doing it, but we can deliver a comparable care, even if it is remote, and they’re not in front of you.”
Another area of innovation in telehealth is telesurgery. The idea is to provide surgical intervention for patients who can’t travel. There are lots of people who live in cities with lots of hospitals nearby, but there is a large portion of the world, as well as the US who live in remote locations, and you can’t always transport unstable or ill patients. Telesurgery was first conducted in 2001. With the improvements of visual feedback we’re able to conduct more and more telesurgery. However, the biggest challenge right now that’s being faced in telesurgery is the latency time. How long does it take for the surgeon? How many milliseconds before the image, and the haptic feedback, and the visual feedback refresh?
If it’s less than a 100 milliseconds in the studies, you’re able to actually feel comfortable in actually interacting and being equivalent to operating on someone in the same room as you. However, when that latency increases to more than a 100 milliseconds, in this review, and in other studies have shown surgeons just don’t feel comfortable that they’re seeing what they need to do to operate, especially to make quick decisions. Telesurgery has been around, we’re still trying to improve it, but this is an area where, how do you provide surgical care to people all around the country, the world, and in remote locations?
The future of surgery, the future of remote surgery, one of the projects that was started about a decade ago by the defense agency was something called the DARPA Trauma Pod. The idea is, how do you get expert surgical techniques to remote locations? And how much can be done remotely? How much can be done autonomously? We’re going to show you a video of possible … A future vision of what remote surgery might look like. The graphics are a bit dated, although, they’re talking about 2025. Th video was generated several years ago, but, again, many of the ideas, many of the concepts might trigger ideas for you about how telesurgery or remote monitoring of patients can move towards, and what can we and can we not automate?
Another area of telemedicine and telehealth is rural emergency medicine. Many rural communities don’t necessarily have physicians or emergency medicine specialists there to treat the patients. There is a hospital system that had deployed tele-emergency medicine. What they looked at was one specific Midwest hospital, and they matched all of the telemedicine consults for 2,857 to the equal number of patients who have the same illness, the same severity, same similar presentation.
What they were able to show within their own hospital system was with telemedicine, the patient was seen six minutes faster to see the provider. If you had to transfer the patient to another hospital, they actually got transferred 22.1 minutes faster or shorter in time. One of the challenges with telemedicine, with these patient-matched controls was, the total length of stay was 40 minutes longer. Although telemedicine was a great way of getting physicians to see patients in rural emergency rooms, and the patients who were sick enough to be transferred got treated better, but the overall length of stay for all patients was longer.
The reason within telemedicine and telehealth, although the technology has matured, and we can all Skype, and/or use any other video conferencing, Google Hangouts, multiple other different video conferencing tools, although the technology has matured, the question we have as providers, and why informatics is critical, is we need to conduct studies to show, where is it better? Where is it worse? How do we optimize these systems where you can deliver better care? As we saw here in a lot of studies, sometimes the data is mixed, and how do we make it so it’s all positive so patients have better outcomes?
Next we’re going to be talking about the virtual intensive care unit. We have patients who are critically ill in intensive care units all around the country. One of the challenges with intensive care units is you need a hospitalist 24/7 who can answer immediate questions. Having that level of … Or a pulmonologist or an ICU doc with additional training, having that person there 24/7 is really costly. Not all patients who are in intensive care units can be transferred to other hospitals or to another level of care. One of the new models that has come out, and has been deployed across multiple hospital systems and individual hospitals is tele-ICU.
One of the limitations of tele-ICU are the first year cost per bed are about $50,000. Depending on how many ICU beds you have, this is not a trivial amount of money to invest for any hospital system. However, some meta-analysis have shown improved survival benefits, and quality improvements. However, they’re not all definitive, and you also do have the concern about positive publication bias. If a hospital invests $200,000, or a half-million dollars in a tele-ICU and you have worse outcomes, one has to really question who’s going to publish that data?
While we have some mixed results, the willingness of academic centers or other hospitals to publish negative results does have to be kept in mind. One of the areas that does need to be worked on, especially for tele-ICU, are what are the best practices? What are the consensus treatment modalities require more research? Even though we’ve deployed them, how do we get the best possible care?
Next, one of the exciting areas in telemedicine is obstetrics and gynecology. You might say, “How do you deliver a baby via telemedicine?” But a lot of the concerns or a lot of the care delivered by OB/GYNs can be done remotely. And some of the exciting areas or some of the areas that people have talked about is in prenatal care, when you give patients or in a remote site you have a hand Doppler, you can actually measure the heart rate of the patient and do a lot of the follow-up without having them travel the long distance to see the physician or the midwife.
Within OB/GYN psychiatry you have concerns about maternal mental health and virtual visits with psychiatrist and coordinating it with social workers or mental health professionals or psychologists is something that telemedicine can help improve the quality of life of the mother. Another challenge within OB/GYN is the limited distribution of maternal fetal medicine specialists and the academic specialists aren’t evenly distributed across the country. And so as you’re moving forward, how do we get the experts in maternal fetal medicine to consult about the illness of the child or about specific complications during pregnancy? Telemedicine is one of those.
Another area in telemedicine is genetic counseling. As we get to more and more understanding of genomics and how that impacts overall health. Even now, a whole genome sequence for a single child or for a prenatal patient will only cost $2,000. So how do you provide genetics counseling to expectant parents and how do you have that expertise to explain complex biological inheritance to patients? And they are not equally distributed across the country as well.
Within expectant mothers, chronic medical conditions, again, you want to try to manage hypertension, diabetes, other diseases that need to be well-managed during pregnancy in order to have good outcomes for the kids, as well as telecolposcopy, where an abnormal pap smear, even when you have an abnormal pap smear you can remotely use expertise in order to help evaluate that before you have to go and do additional treatment or additional follow-up for abnormal pap smears.
Another area of telehealth, and one might be thinking about dentistry and how you get a camera in someone’s mouth, but teledentistry is another area of open research and innovation within the field of health informatics. The success for teledentistry has been oral screening, especially for school-based programs or in remote areas where you want to screen lots of patients or just normal individuals to identify disease. The less rigorous data and the review articles have shown is actually the identification of oral disease, that’s another provider says, “Hey, this might be disease, can you double check?” As well as teleconsultations.
So actually doing complete cental consults via tele-dentistry has shown some positive data, but the data isn’t as robust as many of the other fields of telehealth. And especially when you’re trying to look at three-dimensional images remotely and trying to superimpose them on a 2D video screen, you can see where although the technology has matured, there are some significant challenges that have to be appropriately controlled for and people trained in order to actually successfully complete and match the equivalent of face-to-face dental consults.
Well, thank you Dr. Boyd. That was very interesting to learn about telehealth and we have some questions that have come in from our audience that we’d like to ask you about related to telehealth and other advancements in technology in healthcare and how our program, our health informatics program will address those technologies. The first question we have is, what do our students learn about in our program that will help advance their knowledge in telehealth?
One of the neat things about our program is while we talk about technology and how it advances is we teach a lot of the challenges that aren’t necessarily technology dependent. As I showed in the presentation, we’ve gone from a simple phone call to conducting surgery over the internet. We have a lot of courses in social and organizational issues in the change of having students understand what are the administrative barriers? What are the physician barriers? How do you evaluate technology?
So in specific courses you can learn about telehealth as it is today, but we really want to train you on how do you evaluate the technology in the next 5, 10, 15 years. It’s really hard to guess what direction the technology is going to go in and 20 years, which is what a master’s degree in what we’re trying to train you for in the future.
Great. Another question has to do with the user experience. So what does the user say? What do our students learn about as far as the user experience specific to telehealth? What are they saying about that?
If you’re looking at user experience for telehealth, there have been multiple studies across multiple different technologies from psychiatry to psychology to dentistry. One of the hardest things that might be to use telehealth for is group-based psychotherapy. I will use some of the literature that will be covered in the courses about telepsychotherapy. When you’re in a group setting and some of the best studies have been conducted by the Veterans Affairs because they have patients all over the country or all over in remote locations like in the Pacific Islands.
When they’ve actually done the studies of patient’s experience, the comparison I’ve heard is sort of like going to a football game. You can watch it on TV. You can be in person in the stand. They’re both different experiences, so they’re not quite equal, but you get the overall gestalt or they can replace one another. So it’s not an identical experience and one of the things you have to evaluate in all technology is patient acceptance. One of the great challenges nationwide has been patient portals.
When the country has deployed them and when you look at the usability and the actually acceptance of this technology that we spent hundreds of millions of dollars, probably billions of dollars nationwide for many hospitals, they’re in the single digits, maybe low double-digit percent utilization. So again, how do you evaluate technology? How do you take patient perspective and utilization and usability and bake that in and evaluate the technology before you invest in it, if you’re working for a hospital or how do you design it in human-computer interaction so you make sure that the patients want to use your technology.
Fantastic. Another question is talking more about in general terms, what do you see are the biggest changes related to the use of technology in healthcare in the last five years?
The biggest changes I’ve seen and we’re just beginning to understand this, is just how much patients can contribute to their own data set, especially in the healthcare. Before if you wanted a physician, or a nurse, or a healthcare practitioner to look at something, you’d have to go into the exam room, but people can use their phone to take pictures. We have patient reported outcomes. We have Fitbit data. We have all this data that the patient is able to actively participate in, which just was at a limited basis five years ago.
What trends do you anticipate in the next five years in healthcare IT?
I see the growth in patient data growing. And as we measure ourselves and we measure communities, where you live, who your friends are, what data you’ve generated from all sorts of different areas, I see that being important in understanding patients and how to improve your health. How do we use what we know about you to motivate you to better health outcomes? Since a lot of chronic health disease is based on behavioral choices, how do we use this data in order to engage the patients in where they are? So as we collect more data about patients, we can understand them better, but how do we use this not in a creepy 1984 Big Brother way, but how do we engage them in a manner where they’re equals and they make informed and deliberate choices.
Okay. You mentioned telehealth as one of the technologies changing the way we practice healthcare. Are there other technologies that you see that are going to be changing the way we practice healthcare?
We have a whole host of technologies, everything from artificial intelligence and machine learning, to data integration, to genomics, to the transition of treatment of patients from the hospital to more outpatient basis. There are just a huge range of innovation and technology that it’s exciting to feel and to design and implement the new technologies and then act 10, 15, 20, 25 years.
What ways do you and other faculty members at UIC keep up with the latest technology trends like the ones you just mentioned?
Many of them are from going to national conferences, but one of the other things that’s unique to UIC is we’re a research-intensive university. This program currently has three large grants creating the new technologies that hospitals will be using in the next few years. Within the faculty who are teaching the courses, they’re the ones creating how we use or how we evaluate the technology or how you make it better.
One of the ways we keep up with it as we’re the ones innovating, but we also consult with lots of other institutions. We keep up with general trends as well as it’s exciting to watch the future direction and just the overall technology, the decrease in price for what many years ago would have been several hundreds of thousands of dollars, now can be less than a 100 bucks. So there’s a number of different ways and that the faculty both keep up with the trends as well as innovate in our own right.
Wonderful. You mentioned these new technology trends. How are those incorporated into the course work that our students are learning about in our program?
Well, when you are talking to the people who actually design the innovations, they can give you insight that’s more than just the peer-review journal article. We update our curriculum regularly in the sense that obviously if we’re talking about EHRs or clinical decision support or telehealth, you can’t be talking about technology that was just in the textbook. We have to supplement with journal articles and cutting edge releases. So a lot of the course, although we do use textbooks, many times we have to use journal articles and other methodologies to really reinforce some of the concepts just because the field is changing so much. Not all courses have textbooks because any textbook written is so far out of date, especially when you get to the advanced levels.
Another question we have is how will our health informatics program help students get into or advance their skills in the field of health informatics?
Our health informatics program will help provide people a wide range of skills in appreciation of the overall breadth of the field. Many people who work in the field or who come in the field will know a specific technology or will know a specific algorithm, but the field is very broad. As we’ve seen even in the subfield of telehealth we go all the way from phone-based care, to remote surgery, to OB/GYN, to emergency medicine, to intensive care unit.
The field is very broad and in the program we will teach you the overall concepts in the overall series in the overall evaluation of health informatics and health IT technology in order to allow you to apply this to your future jobs, where your technology or your hospital may not be the identical to someone else, but if there is data and if there are theories to improve the technology by knowing the breadth of the field you can go, “Oh, this is new, but someone has done something related.” Or, “This theory is going to help us make sure that we do it in a successful manner.”
While you can work in a very narrow area for most of your career without appreciating the breadth of it and being able to understand and leverage ideas from other fields to advance your own career or your own projects, that is where we’ve seen in, unfortunately in health IT and in health informatics, many of the mistakes are made over and over and over again just because we haven’t had this dissemination of the knowledge.
Now, a couple of the technologies you mentioned are ones that we’ve had some questions about. One of them is about blockchain technology. And I know that can be a very complicated topic, but can you briefly explain how that is being used in healthcare. What it is first of all and how it’s being used in healthcare and then what our program would teach them about blockchain?
Blockchain technology is a very complex technology, as you mentioned. If someone wants a high-level overview of blockchain technology, I would direct you to some of the white papers that are about 20 to 30 pages long and go into detail mathematics. Blockchain being used today is actually there isn’t much. One of the first workshops in healthcare and technology was led by our faculty at MATTER Health in conjunction with the University of Illinois Hospital and many of the tech startups.
And the directions we see people innovating using blockchain technology is how do you get records that are immutable? How do you make sure the integrity of the data of the electronic health record is true? How do you keep track of all the people who have access to the data and who accessed it when? So one of the challenges within electronic health records, especially as people are moving along is historically you had to have paper charts in it would be hard to fabricate electronic health records, but as we’re moving now to all digital, how do you make sure someone didn’t just make an old electronic version of a discharge summary and they’re making themselves have cancer?
These are questions that current technology just doesn’t have good answers for. Now, blockchain technology has potential access and potential utilization in order to authenticate individual records without necessarily having to expose all the data to all individuals, but just as we’ve had peer-reviewed journal articles in the presentation, there have been lots of peer-reviewed journal articles about blockchain technology in healthcare and where we can innovate. Some of the limitations, at least with Bitcoin and some of the popular algorithms is just the energy costs in order to do the calculations.
When you consider 300 million people in the US, we are going to have to come up with more efficient blockchain algorithms in there out there in order to use them on a routine hospital-wide or a nationwide basis, but there are ways to innovate around them. So while we’ve heard a lot about blockchain and Bitcoin, adapting them to the unique needs and the privacy and concerns of healthcare is an open area of research and within the program, as it becomes more established, as we’re innovating around blockchain, faculty have led these workshops and will continue to work with others and with industry in order to figure out what is the best way forward.
Great. A couple of other technologies. You mentioned that upcoming are artificial intelligence and machine learning. Could you give us a little bit of overview of what those are and how our students would learn more about those in this program?
Within the health informatics program one of the exciting new areas is our concentrate edition and health data science. And within their concentration or in track, we have a separate course in artificial intelligence in medicine. And what is artificial intelligence? There’s actually a whole journal called Artificial Intelligence in Medicine. So if you’re interested in just the broad range of what is the definition of artificial intelligence, one of the challenges we have with all healthcare technology is that term has continued to evolve over time.
When is something not artificial intelligence? Usually it’s when it becomes routine and you can do it every day, but that’s sort of a silly answer. But within artificial intelligence and machine learning, there are two different techniques of applying advanced mathematical knowledge. Machine learning are different techniques than just … Machine learning is usually a subset of artificial intelligence, but it’s more detailed methodology where artificial intelligence is more of a high-level classification.
But as we’re collecting terabytes of data on patients, how do we synthesize this data? How do we find trends? How do we find nonlinear correlations between the data that will allow us to predict in the future who’s going to be ill? Who needs the intervention? Who should the nurse or the physician of the pharmacist intervene on, not when they’re about to have a heart attack or when they’re actually going to have problems, but can we give them an hour or two advanced warning so they can begin to intervene, be caught up before someone becomes really sick?
And with the electronic health record, we have huge data sets, which is great. But as anyone in the hospital and healthcare knows, this data is dirty. This data is not necessarily a 100% accurate. Sometimes a blood pressure is a little high or a little low because of the way they measure it. So how you handle just the random nature of the data in the electronic health record and what the meaning of the data is, is one of the exciting areas that the students can learn about with applying the machine learning techniques in order to get relevant and realistic results. You can’t just take a computer scientist, give them the data set and expect magic to happen. This is a collaborative, iterative process in order to help inform and drive the clinical decision-making process.
Wonderful. Now, another question we have is about mobile apps. That’s always kind of a popular topic. How are those being used in healthcare, and how where our students being equipped to develop their skills in mobile apps?
We have a specific course in mobile health taught by Spyros Kitsiou. If that is the area that they’re excited about, there is over I believe 500,000 mobile apps both in the Apple Store and Google Play internationally. There have been hundreds of millions of dollars invested in mobile app development. It’s an exciting area to go when you actually look at the number of peer-reviewed journal articles evaluating these apps, it’s actually unfortunately significantly less than the number of apps that have been published to the mobile app stores.
So you can learn specifically about the limitations, what the direction is, how the FDA guidance has continued to evolve over this. Again, mobile app development is an exciting area. But unfortunately, if you’re working in healthcare, there are regulations affiliated with this, and although there are some tech innovators in Silicon Valley who said, “If you repeal HIPAA, I can solve all the healthcare problem tomorrow.” The reality is this is health data. We’re dealing with individuals lives. You can’t just expose everyone’s data because you forgot to secure it in the appropriate manner.
There is rigor and there’s additional information and additional design elements that you have to do especially for mobile health apps that you can’t just do if you’re billing of little video game. So we will go over many of those concerns. We’ll go over the history and Dr. Kitsiou can help drive a lot of additional discussion and help train you so you can build high quality apps that patients want to use in order to improve health in the future.
Fantastic. Now, we do want to know about examples of projects our students have done related to healthcare technology.
We’ve had them do a number of different projects. I’ve worked with students on independent studies on a wide range of areas, everything from hospital readmission rate to opioid innovation, working with individual faculty members as an independent study or as a research technician is something that’s an option. We honor the things that is part of the UIC program is the Capstone, where it is a small project that you can work with a faculty member and help understand an area of informatics and make it your own and just go into it in-depth and actually study.
So depending on how applied you are, there are opportunities to do internships or practicums. So again, depending on the ability and interest we will work with the students to try to help place them or if they have individuals. So there are a whole bunch of wide-ranging project that students can work on. And we also have a research track where if you’re really excited about doing health informatics research, you can work with an individual faculty member and actually do the research to get to a publishable finding and presented at regional, national or international conferences.
Great. Great. We had one of our students to share their Capstone at the HIMSS Conference last year and that was really exciting. He kind of paved the way for other students. So that was terrific, great thing. The next question has to do with privacy and security concerns. So what do our students learn about this topic?
We have a whole course in health IT security. We have courses in the ethics and legal. We have courses in the privacy of the data. This is part of working in healthcare. If you don’t want to work with the concerns of privacy and security, health informatics is not your field, but we’re dealing with individuals health data. We want to make sure that it’s protected. Consider it your mom’s data or your own data. And so there are specific federal, state and local regulations that obviously in any introductory course will be covered, but we actually have dedicated courses to these topics to make sure that again, not necessarily you’re going to become a certified security expert, but you have to be familiar with the concepts and how you even consider these things.
You can’t just post all the data on a public website and you might say, “Oh, well, no one would ever think of that.” But unfortunately, we’ve had a whole host of examples over the last 20 years of hospital systems accidentally posting whole bunches, millions of records to websites that can be searched or crawled by Google. This is a critical aspect and this is just part of routine practice in health informatics.
Okay. Another question has to do with barriers and challenges that you are seeing as the use of and growth of tools like mobile apps and telehealth and other technologies. What are the barriers and challenges that you are seeing in the field?
We don’t have enough people who are knowledgeable in the workforce to help the companies, to help the hospitals, to harness the technology in order to deploy these in appropriate way and to design them in a way that patients really want to engage in. And part of the health informatics program is to help increase the number of practitioners and the expertise nation and worldwide in order to allow the companies and individuals to move forward. But without the technical and knowledge expertise, you’re limited by the number of people you can find.
Which is another reason about being in our health informatics program, to teach people these things.
Yes. We need to grow the number of individuals with the skillset as fast as we can.
Now we move into some questions having to do with careers. Our program no longer requires a healthcare or IT background for brand new students. What positions or roles do you see that students who come into our program without a healthcare or IT background can move into after completing our health informatics program?
There will be a number of different roles. The field is individually maturing. There are all sorts of … Our health informatics program is accredited. There is talk about interprofessional certification after you finish the master’s program. We are working on all of those national and international boards to make sure anyone who graduates from our program is appropriately trained to pass these high-stakes tests. Within the healthcare background, we’ve had physicians who have taken our master’s program who’s been able to successfully pass the clinical informatics board, which is a high-stakes test covering some more content.
And as I’ve said before, while originally we had a requirement of someone with a healthcare or IT background, we have a huge shortage of individuals. If you look at informatics, or if you look at healthcare IT on any job board, you will find hundreds of thousands of jobs in any location. And so while you’re not going to jump from like no healthcare experience to a senior leadership, but there are entry level positions and mid-level positions based on your skillsets that you can leverage this degree and be able to say, “Listen, here’s the knowledge that I know. I have a master’s level degree and here’s how I can apply my knowledge to improve your organization.” And there are regional, national events that will be happy to talk to you about, about how you can showcase your degree and basically how we can find the job postings and the career paths.
And one of the things I like to tell prospective students is the opportunity to network with the other students in the program, because a lot of people already work in health informatics. So getting to know your fellow student and networking with them is really key.
Now, you mentioned a little bit earlier about research and that UIC is a tier-1 research university. What are some of the research that’s being done and how can students who are interested in research get involved? You did mention our research track.
So the research you can look in the Applied Health Science website. We’ve got multiple NIH, Agency for Health Research Quality, grants. We’ve previously had some private foundation and company money. And so if you’re looking for the latest, I would look at the Applied Health Science news releases because that’s where the latest and greatest data is. But how do students, if you’re interested in research, you can work with individual faculty members who are conducting research on a volunteer basis or on our graduate hourly basis.
If you’re interested in something that … This is the career track you want and you really want to innovate and study the next generation, we have a research track within the master’s program where you will get to design and execute a research project at a master’s level and you will have a committee and go through the entire process. At the level you are interested in and have the time and feasibility, we are always looking for excited and motivated students who are interested in research and part of it depends on where you are and some projects are face-to-face, some projects are virtual.
So many times it’s dependent upon the limitations of the student, but we have lots of different projects with a wide range of faculty. Everything from patient safety to hospitalizations to outpatient, to teamwork, to human factors, to studying Twitter feeds for healthcare. So we just have a wide range of faculty expertise and research projects. So we’d be happy to talk with students who are in the program about how they can be involved or with research, especially at the master’s level, where is the student’s passion? Obviously, if you’re going to do a research project, we would want you excited about the topic.
Exactly. Well, one of the biggest questions we get is what our graduates are now doing. Can you provide us examples of jobs that our graduates are in and how our program helped them acquire those jobs?
Our program has students all over the place. We have students who are working at University of Illinois hospital and Health Sciences System in a wide range, everything from the IT on the clinical floors. We have former students working at [BizInt 00:51:43], which is a data analytics company for university, academic health centers. We have former students working at major EHR vendors. We have students working in a wide range of both organizations to what their individual jobs and roles are.
There are some who go into academia. There are some who go into the for-profit area. One of the joys about informatics is the field is so broad and has so many different areas we have them working in a large number of different institutions. So if you can imagine a type of organization, then I can’t say like every organization type we have former students, but informatics and health data and understanding and using it to improve outcomes is a huge growing area, and many of the job postings that students who will finish in two years probably haven’t even been invented yet because as we understand the data more, how do you apply the value? How do you improve the overall hospital system? We may not know those answers today. Especially over a 20-year career.
I tell people that too, that probably new jobs will be created as they’re in the program.
I would be surprised by the time if someone starts the program today, that if there is not new job titles, new job classifications by the time they finish, it would be truly surprising. Even the federal government just recently came up with a job classification for health IT. So the field is growing enough where the government wants to start counting jobs in this area. I mean, this is how fast the government expects the field to be growing. Before we were categorized with other industries, but now we have our own category. It’s an exciting time to get involved and become educated and to help improve healthcare.
Awesome. I have one final question for you. What do you see are the greatest strengths of our health informatics program and what sets our program apart from other health informatics programs?
Our greatest strengths are our faculty and our students in our program. Our faculty are led by cutting-edge researchers, cutting-edge educators. We have adjuncts with industry expertise and we have a program that is at, as you said before, the Carnegie level one institution. We are not only teaching you, but we’re also innovating the next generation of technology. Our health informatics program is comprehensive. We’ve been fully accredited. We have been national leaders and we’ve been educating in this field since the ’90s.
So this is a program with a long history. We have a large number of current students and alumni and it is very hard to find the same strengths and diversity of students and faculty in many other programs. We truly believe this is a health informatics innovation program. We have doctors. We have nurses. We have cognitive psychologists. We have informatics faculty with PhDs in biomedical and health informatics. We have people with design backgrounds. We have people with backgrounds in public health. Healthcare is an interdisciplinary endeavor. No one profession, no one degree in computer science.
This isn’t driven just by doctors. This isn’t just driven just by nurses. This is truly an interdisciplinary field where you need the expertise, you need the experience of a diverse faculty in order to give you an appreciation of a, where all the exciting potential is, but also to know where some of the limitations are.
Fantastic. Well, thank you so much Dr. Boyd. We sure appreciate your insight and as our audience, if they have further questions, you can definitely send them in. If your question was not answered, we’ll be happy to answer them, your enrollment advisor will reach out to you. And if you are interested in our program, please contact your enrollment advisor. Thank you so much.
This is Joan, and once again, I want to thank our audience for listening to our webinar. I hope it was really insightful for you to hear more about our health informatics program, and our enrollment advisors would welcome hearing from you. Each of us will personally work with you and help you with the understanding of the program, helping you determine if it’s right for you. And if you do decide you want to apply, we will be there to work with you all the way until you are accepted in the program and then of course, we have a student advisor who works with you until you graduate from our program. We would really like to hear from you. Thanks again for attending.