COVID-19 pandemic hastens the need for more health informatics professionals

RIT and Rochester Regional Health team up for online master’s degree in health informatics

National Cancer Institute

RIT’s health informatics master’s degree program is partnering with Rochester Regional Health to help meet an increasing demand for professionals who can bridge the divide between technology and health care.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, new technology is being used to improve health care—from telemedicine to data analytics aimed at containing the next pandemic.

To help bridge new technology with current health care practices, organizations are recognizing the need to hire more health informatics professionals than ever. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the field is projected to grow 32 percent by 2030.

In an effort to help more qualified people step into this field, RIT has revised its health informatics master’s degree program and partnered with Rochester Regional Health (RRH).

The online master’s program aims to transition health care practitioners and IT professionals into careers that focus on health informatics. The program now has classes taught by experts at RIT and RRH to provide a balance of both disciplines. It has also added an in-depth course on data analytics and more practical hands-on learning experiences at RRH facilities.

“The demand for health informaticians is greater than ever before, as they play an important role in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Dr. Farhad Nasar, a physician and Medical Director of Health Informatics at RRH. “This is a field where individuals develop unique skills and play their role in dealing with a crisis like COVID-19, as well as improving health care from the individual to the population level.”

RIT’s health informatics program is offered part-time, making it accessible for working students. It is offered online and consists of 10 courses. Students will also have the opportunity to go on-site at RRH for some courses to learn from real-life health informatics projects.

Karan Sharma, a 2021 health informatics graduate who recently accepted a job as Ambulatory eRecord project director at the University of Rochester, said that he got to interview IT directors and health informatics medical directors as part of his classes. Sharma is a registered nurse who had been working in clinical informatics for about 10 years before deciding to pursue a master’s degree.

“You can really make an impactful difference, because health informatics is often at the forefront of change within health care,” said Sharma.

Physicians in RRH’s Clinical Informatics Fellowship program are also taking part in RIT’s health informatics program. The two-year training fellowship aims to equip physicians with the knowledge, skills, and compassion to lead the thoughtful modernization of health care. In addition, the fellows complete the MS in health informatics through RIT.

Nasar is program director of the Clinical Informatics Fellowship program. He said it is one of only a handful of informatics fellowship programs of its kind in the country.

“We invested in this fellowship program to create a sustained pipeline of experts and change agents to maximize the investment of the finite information technology resources for emerging health care needs,” said Nasar. “Partnership with RIT and our combined academic environment provides a unique opportunity for RIT students and our fellows with different health care and technology backgrounds to collaborate and share their knowledge, skills, and experiences that help them excel in their field.”

Health Informatics at RRH has achieved national recognition for its structure and outcomes. RRH earned the highest stage of Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), being certified for implementation and adoption of the advanced technology for electronic medical records, data analytics, usability, safety, privacy, security, and more.

“In many places, we’re still trapped in purgatory between manual records and digital records,” said Chris Bondy, program coordinator of RIT’s MS in health informatics and a visiting professor. “Seeing RRH step up, spending time and money on becoming certified, is a commitment to health informatics long-term. We’re happy to be collaborating with RRH to grow this field and help people step into fulfilling new careers.”

To learn more about the online master’s degree program, go to RIT’s health informatics MS webpage.

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