MMI 403 - Introduction to Medical Informatics

Course Description:

This course is a survey of fundamental concepts and activities on information technology as applied to health care. Topics include computer-based medical records (EMR and PHR); knowledge-base systems, telehealth, decision theory and decision support (CDSS); human-computer interfaces; systems integration; the digital library; and educational applications. Department-specific applications such as pathology, radiology, psychiatry, biomarkers, gnome project and drug development will also be discussed.
Professor: Vikram Sheshadri
Term: Spring 2010
Grade: A
Text: Biomedical Informatics: Computer Applications in Health Care and Biomedicine Series: Health Informatics Shortliffe, Edward H. (Ed.)  3rd ed., 2006 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, XXVI, 1037 p., 159 illus., 4 in color, Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-387-28986-1

Learning Objectives:

  • Explain the academic discipline of medical informatics and the role of medical informatics in clinical healthcare applications
  • Recognize how medical data including clinical, administrative, and financial data, is used in healthcare applications
  • Comprehend the nature of medical knowledge and decision-making and the role of decision support systems, knowledge-based systems and artificial intelligence methods
  • Identify how current and emerging information delivery methods including mobile networks, Web-based databases and decision support systems, and enterprise information systems can be used to enhance patient outcomes
  • Demonstrate sensitivity to issues of privacy, ethics, and compliance issues in the collection, distribution, and use of medical information, especially patient records
  • Evaluate current informatics software and systems used for clinical and professional support
  • Recognize the integration between research, clinical data, and theory in improving patient outcomes

What I Learned:

After gaining a better perspective of the clinical side, me, and other technically-experienced students we were brought together with the clinical track students in the program. While we were learning about their world, they were similarly learning about the importance of technology in the clinical setting. This gave the collective student body a better appreciation of the needed partnership between the technical and clinical worlds that forms the new discipline of Medical Informatics. Together, we dove deeper into the emerging field and gained a better understanding of how it developed and its relation to Bioinformatics and Clinical Informatics.

The key aspect that I appreciated most about this class was that we were able to take inventory of "current state" in healthcare. Paper-based records have for a long time been the primary means for coordinating care. Only recently has that gone toward electronic solutions with EHR, CPOE and e-Prescription. Along this journey, way, there are many interactions between a patient and the healthcare system. As we seek make this systematic, interoperability between disparate clinical and information systems to enable exchange of data information efficiently becomes crucial, and this class explored this in critical detail.

Throughout the course, I gained a better appreciation for how care delivery is documented. One of the first assignments I did was to examine standardization as it relates to coding and classification systems. I learned about nomenclatures, taxonomies, ontologies and terminologies. I could both see and appreciate how complex classification systems can develop throughout the course of care for patients. An analysis of the United States relative to other nations shows that our nation is behind in this regard. As a part of another individual assignment, I also able to explore my personal health record (PHR) in both a paper-based form and one that is electronic. For me, I developed a passion for the importance of the PHR in the MedInf401 class but I didn’t realize that PHRs aren’t getting traction until this class. I learned that this is because individuals are not taking ownership for their own health yet. This will prove to be another important integration and intersection that will need to happen at some future point in order to make our health records more portable. Additionally, I got my first demonstration of an EMR application in this class when the professor demonstrated the Nextgen EMR to us during lecture. This was my first real exposure to client/server technology within healthcare, and given my background in software and IT, I was shocked by the simplicity of the EMR.However, I was suitable motivated because I knew I could apply what I had learned from working in high technology to drive positive change and improvement within the industry.

In conclusion, this class provides a student with a holistic view of the field. Crucially, it aligned as the student body from both backgrounds toward a common goal. I wrapped up the class with a final project I worked with Michael Aguilar (technical), Wade Astin (clinical) and Jacob Frimpong (technical) to develop a conceptual idea that would improve Pnuemococcal and Influenza Rates through an alert system integrated into an EMR application. Through the project, I was able to see screens from another EMR, and our project was extremely well-received by the professor and by the student body for its originality and thoroughness in execution. In closing, this class clearly demonstrated to me the prospective opportunities available with a degree in Medical Informatics, and I left this class enthused and excited.

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