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Educational Programs
2009-2011 Student Handbook

Health Informatics Essential Skills for
Health Informaticians
Program Philosophy Program Description

Health Informatics

Health Informatics is the study of how health data are collected, stored, and communicated; how these data are processed into health information suitable for scientific, administrative and clinical decision making; and how computers and telecommunications technology can be applied to support these processes. Health informaticians are in great demand and may work in various clinical, research and educational environments.

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Essential Skills for Health Informaticians

Health Informatics is a collaborative discipline that builds on several other fields such as information sciences, biomedicine, computer science, and mathematics. Proficiency in each of these areas is necessary to work in health informatics. Courses are available to assist students with gaining competencies in these foundation areas, since solid background knowledge in these support areas is consistent with student success in the study of Health Informatics.

Communication skills are very important to the field of informatics. If your verbal GRE score is below 640, you must take HI 5000 Technical Writing in Healthcare. If your MAT score is below 432, you must take a technical writing course.

To successfully perform the duties of a health informatician, an individual must be able to think critically and analytically , must demonstrate motivation and have a technical understanding of the computing environment that is the basis for informatics work. Students must be able to address problems in a clear and innovative manner. Other requirements include the ability to communicate in English both orally and verbally at the college level and to work in interdisciplinary teams. Depending on their application area, students must have demonstrable competence with a programming language, college algebra, computer literacy skills, anatomy, physiology, health language, clinical care, and operational characteristics of healthcare.

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Program Philosophy

The ultimate goal of the program is to use informatics to improve the health of the people of Texas. The School of Health Information Sciences at Houston strongly believes that healthcare will increasingly require a cooperative interaction among the health disciplines. The result will be practitioners who understand the technology, data, information, knowledge, assumptions and decision making of others as they attempt to design, provide and evaluate health care in the 21st century.

To that end, the Health Informatics Program stresses the development of interdisciplinary teams to evaluate and address the complex informatics issues that will face health care in the next century. Students will enter the Health Informatics Program with a strong base from their previous undergraduate or graduate studies. They will study how to communicate knowledge across traditional, professional, and organizational barriers. As they progress, students will acquire the principles and knowledge needed to organize, store, display, communicate and evaluate that knowledge across a variety of systems: electronic, social, and political. The ultimate goal of the program is to use informatics to improve the health of the people of Texas.

The Health Informatics Program will start from a strong scientific base and move to the application of informatics to a variety of areas related to the interests of students and faculty. These areas of interest may include, but are not limited to: computational knowledge, electronic record system, telehealth, patient focused information systems, and computational biomedicine.

Health Informatics is always undergoing rapid change. New technologies, conceptual understandings and computational processes ensure that the future will bring increasing rates of change and development. Students will have the knowledge and skills to address present issues and the adaptability to address future ones. The Health Informatics Program will strive to meet the needs of students, develop new research to advance the frontiers of the science, and be an active participant in the development and application of Informatics initiatives in the community.

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Program Description

The Program in Health Informatics is designed to be trans-disciplinary in its focus. In the United States, this is the first program in Informatics that does not reside in a discipline-specific professional school. Students come from a variety of disciplines. They work in interdisciplinary teams to better understand the knowledge unique to each discipline and how that knowledge must be translated for use by other disciplines. In developing this program, the School of Health Information Sciences has worked with representatives from Texas A&M University, Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University, the University of Houston, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Texas Woman’s University to improve opportunities for students entering the Health Informatics Program and to create new electives available to the other schools.

The certificate, masters and doctoral degree programs incorporate an interdisciplinary and integrative design that is believed to be unique to the field of health informatics in the United States. Many existing informatics masters and doctoral programs are organized around a specific discipline in which applications of informatics within that discipline are emphasized; e.g., medical informatics, nursing informatics, dental informatics. The Health Informatics Program, on the other hand, is designed to be inherently transdisciplinary and integrative. This means that the fundamental informatics concepts that transcend and apply to all traditional healthcare disciplines will be emphasized. Moreover, these programs will identify and teach the major informatics concepts that integrate and link diverse health disciplines creating focus on patient healthcare.

Individuals holding a baccalaureate or higher degree in a health-related discipline, computer science, engineering, or management information systems can apply for the graduate Health Informatics program. To complete the program full-time students usually spend a year (three semesters) for the certificate program, two years (five semesters) for the masters program and four years (12 semesters) for the doctoral program in health informatics studies. Part-time enrollment is available for certificate and masters students. The course of study is initiated in the fall, spring or summer semesters. The priority deadline for completed applications is the 15th of March for the summer semester, July 1 for the fall semester and November 1 for the spring semester. Applications may be submitted at other times with prior consent of the School.

The certificate program is a certificate of completion of 15 semester credit hours of graduate level credit.

UTHSC-H awards a Master of Science degree or a Doctor of Philosophy degree to students who successfully complete the Program in Health Informatics.

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