Inside USD

Nursing Offers New Degrees in Informatics

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Those looking for hot new jobs in today’s economy need look no further than USD’s Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science.

This fall the school will begin offering a master’s degree in health care informatics and a master’s degree in nursing with a specialty in informatics. The master’s in nursing will be the only program of its kind in California. The nursing school will also offer a graduate certificate program in informatics that can be completed in one calendar year.

Health care informatics is a new industry created by the intersection of computer science and health care. Paper records in the doctor’s office are rapidly becoming obsolete. Soon every patient’s medical history will be captured in bits and bytes. Information will be digitized at every step of the process from records and decision-support to patient education and billing. Thousands of jobs are expected to be created in this new industry.

Driving the digitization of health care records are new federal laws included in the 2009 economic stimulus package that will provide a bonus payment for Medicaid and Medicare to hospitals and health care providers that implement the new systems, beginning next year. And health care providers who don’t implement them will face reduced reimbursements by 2015.

“We are excited to offer these programs on the cutting edge of health care that will provide high-paying jobs in such a tight economy,” said Sally Brosz Hardin, dean of USD’s School of Nursing.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in medical and health care informatics is expected to increase by 18 percent a year through 2016 and currently there is a critical shortage of qualified professionals capable of applying these technologies and communicating effectively with both health care providers and information technology professionals. The United States needs an additional 50,000 informatics professionals to help hospitals and physicians become meaningful users of health care records, according to a report by the California HealthCare Foundation.

“By automating, organizing and improving the transmission of information to support the delivery of health care, informatics will enable doctors and nurses to centralize their patients’ records, lab technicians to send electronic test results immediately, pharmacists to view a patient’s entire prescription catalog and much more,” said Jonathan Mack, PhD, USD’s coordinator for the program. “The end goal is to improve medical care by increasing speed and accuracy while reducing errors and costs.”

USD’s School of Nursing is ranked in the top 10 percent of nursing schools in the country. The informatics programs will be cross-disciplinary, drawing upon a partnership between the nursing school, USD’s School of Business Administration, Engineering Programs and the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Computer Science. The program offers opportunities for students from health care and other backgrounds, including business, engineering and computer science backgrounds. The informatics program will prepare students to work in hospital systems, clinics, technology-driven companies or pursue further academic studies.

Applications are now being accepted. For more information, go to www.sandiego.edu/academics/nursing or call (619) 260-4548.

— Liz Harman

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