UIC Health Informatics Industry Spotlight June 2017

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UIC’s enrollment team discusses the Health Informatics program with two current students and two alumni. They discuss balancing school with their personal lives, how the program is impacting their careers and why they choose UIC.

Hosted on June, 2017


Hello. Thank you for joining us here at UIC. We will be going over our industry spotlight for today’s webinar. My name is Camille Gillette and I’m joined by my colleague Chanel Williams. We’ll go right into the program information here in just a moment. We’ll give others maybe a few minutes to join in.

So before we go into the facts about our Health Informatics Program, I did want to bring to your attention that we do have a chat feature. So, feel free to type your questions. We’ll be sure to answer those during the webinar. So, just a bit about UIC’s Health Informatics Program, we were the first CAHIIM accredited program. CAHIIM is the accrediting body that accredits health informatics programs here in the U.S. It stands for Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management.

We offer students three opportunities to start the program each year, or its final session to start this year will be the fall semester, which starts in August. We also have opportunities to start in the spring and summer terms. We do not require a GRE or a GMAT. And we currently offer two degree options. We offer the full master’s degree in health informatics, as well as a post-master’s certificate, which is ideal for individuals who already have a graduate degree. We’re also the nation’s largest medical school.

Just to give you a quick review of the program details, our master’s degree requires about 45 credits to complete. So one can complete it in just two to two and a half years. Students typically take just one class at a time. So this is very convenient for individuals who want to continue to work full-time. And they’ll take one class every eight weeks.

In total, they’ll take about 15 classes. We offer about a dozen electives, but students are only required to take three, and these are top-notch electives, which includes a practicum for individuals who may want to gain some experience in Health Informatics. If you have a graduate degree, as I mentioned previously, you may also consider our certificate program. This one, only 24 credits. It’s seven classes, and you can finish up this program in about 18 months.

We know you’re probably wondering how soon you could start the program. So, as I mentioned, we have a session starting this fall. We do split the semesters into two sessions. Session A is expected to start August 28th and will run through October. Session B will start October run through December. And then, students will have a winter break before resuming in spring.

I would like to introduce our guest speakers today. For current students, we have Sree and Chris. And then speaking from a graduate perspective, we have Matthew and Jackie.

Hello everyone. My name is Chanel and I’m one of the advisors here speaking with the graduates. So, I will start off with our first question. I will pose a question to Jackie. We have Jackie and Matthew here. So Jackie, can you tell us a little bit about your current profession?

Sure. I’m Jackie King and I’m a Clinical Informatics Specialist as well as an HIM consultant for a 54 member non-profit critical access/rural hospital association in the state of Illinois, as well as a 24-member accountable care organization in the state of Illinois. So, I have dual roles. I support HIM functions, workflow coding, release of information medical records, and then I work with the ACO to do data analytics on our CMS claims data and help take that information and turn it in to actionable items for our members to be able to work on population health.

Okay, thank you. Thank you. Wonderful. And for Matthew, can you tell us a little bit about yours, as well?

Yeah, that sounds good. So, I’m an Institutional Accounts Specialist for Pfizer. I’ve been at Pfizer for 11 years. And in that role, I work with the hospital systems in downtown Cincinnati to promote specific products in the primary care line that would be applicable to the hospital setting. I also make sure that the products are available on formulary, that there’s protocols and pathways set up for the physicians to get to those, and then also any resources around those products that can be used in the hospital setting. I also act as like a single point of contact for the primary care product portfolio with the hospital. So, any time they have a new medication they need help with in the hospital or they have special projects that go on they’ll come to us to ensure that we reach out to the people we know in the hospital setting, and at any one time, I’m working with as many as 17 different people on some of these things.

That’s great. Thank you. Thank you so much for that.

Hi, Sree, the first question is prior to enrolling in our health informatics program, what was your profession?

I’m a clinical scientist for Henry Ford Hospital based in Detroit, Michigan. I got my pharmacy degree back in India. I have been working over nine years as an inpatient clinical pharmacist, pharmacy outpatients team-leader, and a pharmacy preceptor for PG run pharmacy residents at the Henry Ford.

Great. Thank you for sharing that. And Chris, can you tell us about your experience prior to starting the program?

Sure. I graduate from nursing school in 1992 with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree. I have worked in an independent 300 bed community hospital in a Chicago suburb for the past 21 years, but have been a nurse for 24 years. Nearly 20 of my years, I worked in the intensive care unit and moonlighted in the emergency department, outpatient infusion center, nursing education, and cardiac rehab. About five years ago, I began working in infection prevention and patient safety in our quality department.
Camille: Great. Thank you.
Chanel: Okay, and for our next question, I’ll pose this one to you, Matthew. Can you tell us why you chose to pursue a Master’s in Health Informatics here at UIC?

Absolutely. So the reason I chose to do Health Informatics, or study Health Informatics, was we were launching a new product for Pfizer and while I was talking to the physicians, and I as in the primary care center at the time, EMR things were fairly new, and I found out that in the past we’ve always had barriers to using medications such as access to your health insurance or cost and the electronic medical records systems were new barrier because if you drug was not in the system in the drop-down menu, providers were not going back and using paper prescription pads to write the medications.

So I found there was a new barrier to me being able to do my job well. And so I wanted to learn as much as I could about health information technology, and I thought that this would be a really good program to go to and learn all the aspects that go into that.
Chanel: Great, so thank you. And Jackie, can you tell us a little bit more about why you chose to pursue the program here?

Well, I actually was looking-I had a bachelor’s, and I was looking at master-level options or another bachelor-level RHIA within the HIIM arena. And I was actually on the AHIMA website, and I found this program popping up on the right-hand side-thank you cookies, right-and found this program was accredited, and I know I had been reading a lot of publication about the informatics arena erupting and the need for professionals in this area, and I truly felt this was the best use of my time and money to go ahead and pursue that field instead of a second bachelor’s degree. So that’s why I chose to go in this route.

Great, thank you.

And Chris, I’ll start with you this time. How did your previous professional experience help influence your decision to pursue a master’s in health informatics at UIC.

Well, I have five children, and my youngest is finishing seventh grade, so I began to wonder what I wanted to do, what direction I wanted to take for the rest of my career. And when I originally went to college, I was going to go into engineering, but life circumstances cut that from happening so instead of pushing aside my experience in healthcare, I began looking at careers where I could use that experience and enhance it with something that would take me in a new direction. I love technology, and I began to consider the health informatics program.
Camille: Wow, wonderful. And Sree, can you tell us about how your professional experience influenced your decision to join our health informatics program?

Yeah, well sure. My healthcare experience has helped me a lot to decide which program I want to pursue. I always wanted to further my studies but was not able to decide which program I wanted to go for, either a master’s in health administration or master’s in public health.

Right at that time, my hospital implemented an electronic health system. It simplified many of our processes and, of course, it created some new issues. That motivated me to learn more about technology and re-shaped my take on master’s degree. So I could say the dynamics of the electronic health system and my desire to deepen my knowledge in electronic healthcare led me to pursue master’s in health informatics.

Great, wonderful. And our next question for Jackie. Can you tell us how your eduction at UIC has impacted your current career.

Oh yes, absolutely. Again, the informatics field has erupted. More and more people in all areas of healthcare, especially, are realizing the need for this field. I have worked at my role for just a little over a year, and it’s just exploded. We’ve created a peer network group where I have quarterly meetings based on subject material or topics challenging our member hospitals. I have fifty to sixty people come to our onsite meetings and attend our webinars.

There’s a huge need for this out in the world, and people don’t understand or have any place to go, a lot of times, to find this information. So, the need is great, and I feel that my background and my master’s preparation has helped to be able to help all of these folks in these smaller rural hospitals to get where they need to be going without having to struggle or hire consultants.

You know, they don’t have money for consultants, so it’s very nice that I’m able to share my experience and my knowledge with them and member hospitals. It’s been a great benefit to myself as well as all of these hospitals in our organization.

Okay. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And Matthew, how has your education impacted your current career?

I think that I bring a different aspect to the career situation with this, because I’m not someone who’s still in the healthcare setting working with patients or actually in our part of the system all the time, because I’m considered a vendor with Pfizer. So I’m actually still working toward a new position in HIP arena with Pfizer.

Being in a pharmaceutical company, I think that we’re a little behind in this area. Which makes sense, because a lot of the offices and hospital settings, they have so much that they’re doing to just keep up with some of the new things coming in with meaningful use stages and patients that are medical home, and trying to use their systems appropriately. I think that we’ve been behind so that we can find ways to be mutually beneficial to all the parties involved, when we are involved in that area.

So, that being said, I’m working with my leadership team right at Pfizer to continue to look for new opportunities and take on different projects that might be associated with that. So one of the things that I did, I participated in our Ohio health information technology day at our state house in Columbus.

And so I’m looking at different things like that as we continue to try to build new positions and find new ways to partner with healthcare, in healthcare.

Great, thank you. Thank you both for sharing.

And Sree, what factors led you to choosing our health informatics program?

This is an excellent question. I’m really glad that you asked me this. Before I went to UIC, I researched various universities and university-type programs. And there are several compelling reasons why I chose UIC.

First and foremost, UIC is the leader in the health informatics and health information delivery programs, and it is listed as the top university-they’ve had this program by several education organizations.

The second one is, it is created by the commission and accreditation for health informatics and information management education, which is a critical thing to me and for any student because some of the certification exams like ASMI only allow students from accredited universities to take certification tests.

And the third one is the program is built on business school model and trains graduates on leadership skills and experiences. Not only that, it focuses on [inaudible] and social issues that influence healthcare systems and electronic healthcare. This was vital to me because I was looking at a program which balances everything.

And last, but not least, this is a hundred percent online program. I’m a mom of two kids and a full-time employee, so I needed something that I can work on my own time.

Great. Thanks for sharing that. And Chris, what about you? Why did you choose our health informatics program?

Well I looked at several online health informatics programs and did some research and was actually accepted at Northwestern University and UIC, but UIC stood out because their program is consistently ranked highly, and the cost is significantly lower than other programs as well.

Another important factor was the CAHIIM accredited program, and that’s important to ensure it was a quality program and met the standards of health informatics education.

Wonderful. Thank you. Okay for our next question. Matthew, I want to start with you on this one. As a graduate of the MSAI program, what advice would you share with potential students entering the program.

I’d share two pieces of advice. The first one is around the capstone project that we did at the end of the program. I would recommend that you choose something that you find throughout the program that interests you, that you really want to dive into with it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a situation that can be very rewarding the end. I actually got to take my project and present it at HIIMS this last year in Orlando with professor Swirsky who was my mentor for the project. So that was really neat-getting to take something I learned in the program and dig deeper into it and then be up on stage and having companies like Epic, and Cerner and Microsoft there asking me questions about it. So that was really neat.

The other piece of advice that I would share is, for me, not working in a healthcare setting directly, I didn’t have hands-on experience with some of the EMR systems, and I know a lot of people are looking for that now as I look for new positions. I thought the class that did the chart reviews would be enough to kind of quell people’s thoughts around that, but, anyway you can, find to get some hands-on experience, I would try and find that and I’d try to find that early in the program.

Great, thank you. And Jackie, I want to pose the same question to you. What advice would you share with potential students as a graduate of the program?

I want to kind of mirror, echo what was just said and that is that if you have no direct clinical experience, you’re gonna struggle a little bit in the world. You need to try to get internships or something. Try to get yourself into, if you’re planning on using your-you’re going into the medical field, you probably need to get something under your belt.

It just looks good on a resume. It’s gonna help you throughout the entire program to have a little more healthcare knowledge. I had a ton of it, so I didn’t struggle at all, but I know there were people that came from manufacturing and other areas that came into this program that struggled a little bit more, and I think any clinical information that they could have gleaned throughout would have helped them. I think they learned in the end, but I found that I was very happy that I had that healthcare background.

Thank you so much. Thank you both for sharing. And for the final question, I’ll start again with you, Chris. As a current student in the health informatics master’s program, what advice would you share with potential students?

Well I’m a seasoned student, which just means I’m old. It’s been twenty-five years since I was in school, and I’ve never participated in an online class before. It can be overwhelming, and I have to remember not to put the cart before the horse and take it one day at a time.

I log in every day and ensure that I am understanding what’s required, and I rely on my student advisor to answer questions I have had, and she’s been great. So, thank you Rachel Osten. And I communicate with the professors via email and Blackboard. If I can do this program, everyone should feel like they would be successful in it as well.
Chanel: Great, thank you Chris. And Sree, what advice would you give to potential students who are looking to start a program as a current student yourself.

Yeah, I highly recommend this program to students who are looking to get a big of picture of today’s ever-evolving healthcare industry. Students should look at programs that balance all aspects of healthcare like leadership qualities, [inaudible 00:20:16] culture, and social issues and healthcare laws. Because they’re very interactive and intense programs focus on challenging students with interesting questions.

And I think, after enrolling into the online program what advantage is I’m not only learning from the professors but also from the other students. You get this chance to share everyone’s opinion and their experiences. And professors [inaudible 00:20:49] of this program are very well-known leaders in this industry at the state and national level. And this program is an amalgam of all of things that I was looking for. So this is a great program for students who are looking to get management skills and to know what electronic healthcare is and how it can change the world.

Great, thank you ladies. So ladies, we had a few questions come in through our chat feature, and some of the questions-individual wanted to learn how you balance your studies with your job and family. So I’ll turn this one over to Sree.

Hi, go ahead please.

How do you balance your studies with your job and family? That’s one of the questions that came in.

Yeah, like I used to be an everyday employee, come in morning 7:15 depending on my shift from 3 to 11:30. Then I asked when enrolling into the program, I realized that I need to contribute a little bit more time to the course, so instead of going 7 to 3:30, I started doing from 7 to 11:30 pm, like I would do two days work in one day, which I’m thankful to my employer who allowed me to do that. So I break my week into work days and study day. So I work on one day and other days, I’m at home, I study and I spend some time with my family.

But, as I said, this is an interactive program. I had to contribute little bit on the days that I’m at work, so I have extra time when I’m on break. So I take half an hour just to see what’s going on in the program and what are the other questions from other students and professors, and I could answer some of it. So that is my typical week.
Chanel: Okay, great. Thanks for sharing that Sree. Another question that came in was regarding interaction with other students. It read, “You mentioned interaction with other students. Can you talk more about that.” And I’ll turn this one over to Chris.

Sure. Part of the program that we use is an online, obviously it’s an online program, but we post information that we have researched online, and the other students have opportunities to comment or add to that. And that’s really been interesting because there’s people that come from all different backgrounds. I’m a nurse, and Sree’s a pharmacist, and we all have different backgrounds, and so it’s really great to get a perspective of what other people have experiences or just different perspective of the things that we’ve researched.

Throughout the whole course, you kind of get to know some of the other students, and I learned from them.

Wonderful. All right, and then this question I’ll turn over to both of you, and I’ll start with Sree. What are your goals once you graduate? How do you think this program will help your career?

I think that once I graduate, I want to be in the administration. I’m already looking at jobs that help me to see what I need to do … focus to sharpen my skills and which areas I need to get certifications, something like that. So definitely I’m looking into administration, hospital administration.
Chanel: Okay. Wonderful, and you, Chris, how do you think this program would help you once you graduate?

I’m still kind of undecided on what direction I want to take. I’m kind of interested in software, so that’s something that’s interesting to me. I’m not a hundred percent sure. I still have another year to year and a half to finish the program. So, we’ll see where that road takes me.

Wonderful. Thank you. Well thanks for answering those questions. We do a few questions that came up during the conversation with our graduate in our chat feature. So, I wanted to take some time and pose the question. I’ll start with Jackie. How long did it take you to complete the program.

It took me two years.

Thank you. And Matthew.

That’s okay, no that’s okay. How have you seen the industry change since you started the program?

I think that the technology continues to change, that everybody’s working with in healthcare. And it allows for more functionality. I know in the classes we didn’t seem to have a lot of textbook-type we did. It was a lot of journals and articles, because they were more up-to-date with what was happening. So just watching the technology change and then all the functionality that people get from that.

When I started the program, most people were just learning how to pull a list off their EHR system, and now I think that’s pretty common. It’s just little things like that with the functionality you and what people are able to do with the technology that they’re working with.

You if I could … This is Jackie … If I could answer that and tag onto what he just mentioned. There are a lot of regulatory requirements coming down the pike. Meaningful use regulations, new advanced payment model regulations, many of which are very dependent on discrete data coming from electronic health records, and being able to be submitted to payors. So that is something very relevant that’s happening right now, that informatics folks have a big key role in playing.

Awesome. Thank you. And I’ll go ahead and pose this with you Jackie. How does this program help individuals with differing backgrounds that you may have noticed.

Definitely, it un-siloes the clinicians from the IT folks. Having worked twenty plus years before I took the program, it helps combine the two sciences of medical and informatics and information technology. It’s actually a wonderful thing that it melds all of these different siloed people and brings them into one field of science. It’s a wonderful thing.
Chanel: Awesome, thank you. Matthew, for the next question, what type of support did you receive while you were in the program, from the faculty and the staff.

With the faculty and the staff, I actually found them to be very helpful. And just about anything I needed, they were very easy to get a hold of. Mandatory email. But I have letters of recommendation I was able to get. When I needed special help with understanding things, they were available to help with that.

As I think I mentioned before, I had worked with Dr. Swirsky on putting together a presentation for him. So he had experience in doing the whole proposal for a conference like that and then working through the steps on how to build it and getting it ready for presentation. So I felt like I had really great support from faculty and stuff while I was there.

Great, thank you. And Jackie I’ll put this one over to you. Since this is an online program what networking opportunities were available as a student and as alumni.

Well, as a student we set up, I don’t even remember what they were called, Wikis, they don’t have Wikis anymore, but we worked on projects together and used Wiki, but we talked on the phone a lot and nowadays you could probably just instant message or go on Instagram or whatever, but we definitely networked and we were from across the country, and we worked on our group projects, and that was very valuable and useful information.

Networking, you know even within the Blackboard I felt like that was such a huge wonderful thing, the conversations popping back and forth within the Blackboard environment. I learned just as much off of those than I did off of the reading assignments and everything else. That was such very interesting useful information, and again, coming from all different fields. I mean hearing their input on the questions from completely different angle than I may have been coming in from was excellent and very useful.

And afterward, as an alumni, I do hear from you folks. A couple times a year, somebody will call me and check in on me and I get publications. I check your website. So they haven’t forgotten me. As we all know, I’m out five years, and here I am having a conversation with you right now. So you don’t just forget your folks when they leave. You do keep in contact. I do appreciate that.

Can I add a couple to that as well.

Sure. Go ahead. Definitely.

So I had-There was an inter collaboration day where we got to campus, it was voluntary when I was there. They had every specialty in the health system sitting at the table and working through cases together, and I thought that was fantastic. And it was, ’cause when I sat down everybody was looking at me, and they said, “We all want to know what health informatics is. None of us the table knew.” So Jackie’s point about being siloed. I thought that was a great way to learn what everybody’s role is and how everybody works together.

The two other things that I did, networking-wise. I joined my local HIMSS chapter, and had couple of interactions with them throughout the year. I got to know people in my area, and some of the people in my area were actually in the program. So that was pretty nice.

And then the last thing I would recommend is when you finish a class, get online with the faculty and find out who everybody’s name is and then go on to your LinkedIn account and connect with them their so you guys can continue to stay in touch moving forward. That was a tip someone gave me and it’s actually worked out really great for being able to keep in touch with people.

Great, thank you. Thank you both for your feedback on that. Matthew, this one is for you. How does the online environment work?

So, in the previous question, Jackie brought up Blackboard with the discussions. Basically, you log on each week and at the beginning of the week you find out what your assignments are, what your due dates are. There’s going to be a syllabus that’s on there that’ll tell you everything that you’re gonna have to do throughout the whole course or the class.

Most classes-I’m pretty sure it was most of them-said we had to get on at least once a day to check the discussion. Typically had to post something by Tuesday and then you had a discussion for the next three days. We had to do a required amount, minimal amount of posts.

I think for anybody coming in, thinking that online learning is easier than classroom, I don’t know that that’ necessarily the case. I found it to be very-it’s a different type of learning with a lot of discussion defending what you’re talking about, supporting the arguments that you’re making in your initial post. And then, doing the same thing with other people’s discussions that they post.

So it’s a very interesting way to do it, but it’s also-I felt like I also learned more. I wasn’t taking a test and forgetting about it, ’cause you were challenged on your knowledge every day if you’re in a discussion. And you had to continue to find new ways to support your answer, new resources. I actually found it to be pretty exciting and pretty interesting.

Wonderful. Thank you. All right, Jackie, I want to start with you. The last question. We asked with question already with our students, but it’s a question we get a lot. How did you balance your work and home life with completing your master’s degree?

Oh this is a loaded question. So, I was single parent with two children, working full-time, and I just made a commitment to better myself for the sake of my children and my future, and I just made it happen. I made time every single day to get done what I needed to get done. I even made time for the suggested but not required reading, because every bit of it helped me in my studies.

And looking back, you just do it. You just make the time and you do it. You put your kids to bed, sit down. I’d be up ’til midnight a lot of time, but I did it, and I’m very proud of myself still, looking back. You can do it. So if I’m telling anyone who’s in that same situation, and I can tell you between then and now, how much further I am along, because I did it. So I would encourage people, don’t be afraid if you’re a single parent or whatever the case may be. Do it, and you’ll be glad you did.

Great, thank you. Matthew, did you want to share how you were able to balance home and work life?

That sounds good. I agree with Jackie, that’s a very loaded question. And I also agree with her that you just have to make a commitment to getting it done and do it.

For me, I travel every day for work. I’m not in an office or a home. So, I’m always on the road. For me, I just had to find places where I could go when I had breaks and sit down and have internet to get online and do my work.

Then when I knew there were days when I wouldn’t have internet available, I made sure I had my reading materials to go so I could start doing that. I spent a lot of time at McDonald’s on the road, getting things done.

And then with kids. I’m married with three kids. All my kids play sports. I coach most of their teams, so, for me, my times to get work done were very early in the morning before I left, at breaks during the day, and usually in the evening from ten o’clock at night to sometime around midnight or one was my big study time during the day.

But, I got it done. I’m very happy that I was able to just commit to doing it and getting it done.

Great, thank you. Thank you both for that input.
Camille: I wanted to thank the guest speakers for a wonderful speakers and Chanel as well. So going into the course expectations. All classes are asynchronous. So students will have twenty-four hour access to the materials. Classes are also offered a hundred percent online. So you wouldn’t ever need to come in to campus.

I know a number of people want to know how much they’ll need to dedicate to the program. So you’ll want to be able to dedicate, I would say, between twenty-five to thirty hours per week for each course. And Matthew and Jackie touched on some of the expectations in terms of what type of assignments you’ll have. So there’ll be discussion board postings. You’ll have papers to write, individual assignments. I know Jackie touched on the Wikis and gave examples of that.

And, like Matthew mentioned, the importance of getting some work experience. I know Jackie touched on this as well. So we do offer practicums, which is a wonderful opportunity for individuals to garner some experience in health informatics at a facility of your choice. It doesn’t have to be at a Chicago organization. You can do it from really anywhere in the country. So that’s something exciting to look forward to in the master’s program.

Additionally, I wanted to touch on tuition and payment options. So most student are expected to just wanted to know what the tuition would be. Tuition is $750 per credit hour and we have a number of payment options available for students for funding. So options for funding your education include financial aid, and that’s in the form of loans at the graduate level. We also have the ability to set up a payment plan, and you can do that for the fall and spring terms only. Of course, paying your tuition in full is available at the beginning of the term with either money order or check or credit card. And we have a wonderful veteran services department to assist individuals with processing of any veteran benefits.

So now is the time to take the next step. Most people want to know, when can they start. So we have three terms every year, spring, summer and fall. The next opportunity, or the last opportunity for this year would be our fall semester. That application, we will be reviewing on June 15th. So if you’re ready, you want to go ahead and reach out to your enrollment advisor with any questions that you have. We look forward to seeing you in the fall.

So now’s the time to start the application process, especially for fall. You can click on the link that you see there. You can actually copy that link into your browser and it will bring up the details to start the application process. You will hear from your enrollment advisor. You have Camille who’ll be reaching out. My name is Chanel. We also have Rachel on the team and Joan Wickler as well.

So once again, we would like to thank our guest speakers for joining us today, and thank all of you for attending, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.