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Online Course Shows How to Use Patient Data to Improve Care

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Online Course Shows How to Use Patient Data to Improve Care

Online Course Shows How to Use Patient Data to Improve Care

Health Informatics Specialization was created by Johns Hopkins faculty.

Karen Nitkin

Date: 09/09/2019

An online course, free to Johns Hopkins faculty members, staff members and students, helps them make the most of Epic and other electronic medical records systems and information technologies — now and in the future.

Health Informatics Specialization, created by Johns Hopkins faculty, gives an overview of health informatics, which is broadly defined as the art and science of gathering and extracting health data and building interventions that yield real results in the form of improved patient outcomes.

The informatics course has been available since January on the Coursera website, a platform for online learning. It’s structured as five classes, each taking about four hours to complete. Students who complete the program, which includes a required peer-evaluated final project, earn a Coursera certificate.

“Medical schools around the country are trying to figure out how to prepare students for the world of digital health,” says Harold Lehmann, professor of health sciences informatics at the school of medicine and a lead developer of the course.

Electronic medical records systems have tremendous potential to improve patient care. But the systems can sometimes seem more burdensome than helpful. The informatics course gives practitioners the tools they need to understand the systems and their potential better.

Lehmann’s course is an abbreviated version of the one-year informatics master’s level program he has led since 2007, he says. Among other things, the course challenges learners to identify health questions and develop information systems to answer them. It also gives participants context about the current state of health informatics and helps prepare them to lead their departments and institutions into the future.

For example, the course shows how to identify the need for an intervention, choose the correct technology, describe how the needed information will be gathered, and design a plan for collecting and using that information.  

About 15 Johns Hopkins doctors and technology experts contributed to the course development, says Lehmann. They include Peter Greene, chief medical information officer; Seth Martin, associate professor of medicine; Paul Nagy, deputy director of the Technology Innovation Center; Amy Knight, chief medical information officer for Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center; Howard Levy, co-chair of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Patient and Family Centered Design Team; and Ingrid Zimmer-Galler, executive clinical director of the Office of Telemedicine.

More than 120 Johns Hopkins faculty and staff members have enrolled, and there have been about 2,500 total enrollees around the globe, says Ashwini Davison, internist and associate director of education for the Division of Health Sciences Informatics.

In the last few years, the American Medical Association has begun recognizing clinical informatics as a pillar of medical education, alongside basic science and clinical science.

“Too often, students enter residency training without the ability to effectively and efficiently work with electronic health records, even though they are one of the primary tools physicians use in everyday practice,” said Susan Skochelak, AMA group vice president for medical education, in 2017.

“Practicing clinicians and young trainees have lived through this transformative era and in many cases have experienced how rapid adoption of technology can lead to dissatisfaction and burnout,” Davison says. “We are now learning to optimize systems. There’s the potential to actually reap the benefits.”