Written by Michael G. Dieter, PhD, MBA.
Program Director, HI
Clinical Assistant Professor, Biomedical and Health Information Sciences
There are several ways to define the construct of the ideal person for a Master of Science in Health Informatics (MS HI) degree. The initial qualification is a candidate for admission who can demonstrate a history of successful performance in several areas that include academic skills, relevant work experience, and personal recommendations in order to be considered for admission to the program. In addition, candidates must be able to articulate a foundational understanding of the field Health Informatics (HI) in terms of overcoming challenges to realize strategic goals. Ideal candidates also seek to transform themselves personally and professionally, demonstrating a strong commitment to healthcare and healthcare delivery though improvements in the current state of health information and communications technologies to improve decision making in a range of health decision contexts.
After candidates for admission has been accepted to enroll in the MS HI program, their academic attributes that contribute to successful performance as graduate-level students in the curriculum’s courses define the ideal person for a MS HI degree. The median time frame for matriculation in the program is approximately 8 semesters (two and a half to three years), and the nature of an academically intensive fully online learning experience necessitates high levels of commitment to achieving success through the level of sustained efforts and time management necessary for graduate studies. MS HI students must also realize that online learning is more difficult than classroom learning in the sense that they must become active learners who are able to produce knowledge, not simply passive learners who assimilate and reproduce knowledge for examinations.
The ideal person for a MS HI degree is able to adapt to change in the HI field. Knowledge in such a dynamic field has a very short half life. For this reason, the MS HI program curriculum aims beyond simply transferring information for assimilation and reproduction, to teaching the research skills necessary for the production of information to build knowledge to advance the field of HI, a knowledge discipline explained by theory and defined by practice. It is the difference between content and process as explained by the parable about teaching a person how to fish instead of giving him a fish, where learning is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. For the ideal person, this translates to mastering the lifelong self- learning skills to adapt personally and professionally to a rapidly changing field.
Once students have completed the program requirements to attain the MS HI, their proactive professional involvement in HI begins. The ideal person has already initiated the process of professionalization as a MS HI student. This process will continue throughout their professional lives in terms of defining and redefining their roles and identities. New roles are emerging in traditional clinical, HIT, business, regulatory, and vendor healthcare contexts to augment and supplant traditional roles involving organizational health information system selection, implementation, development, and integration, as well as to recognize and realize the value of the data that new systems are generating. This represents a shift from meaningful use of health technology to meaningful use of health data that is creating new opportunities for data-driven decision making to address longstanding HI issues such as clinical outcomes, managing patient safety risks, and cost control. The ideal person for a MS HI degree will ultimately become a change leader in how healthcare is experienced.