Guest Article: How medical students can get into Health IT

Many med students often write to me asking about how they might get into the healthcare IT space while continuing their studies or after they graduate. Kat Sanders, who regularly blogs on the topic of online phlebotomy classes at her blog Health Zone Blog speaks routinely to med students so I asked here to share her thoughts. She’s got some great ideas for students and is willing to take more questions via e-mail or comments in this posting. Here’s what she had to say:

If you’re a medical student who is also interested in information technology, there’s a great way to make both your passions meet and make a career out of it. Healthcare IT is a field that’s growing rapidly, more so with the advent of handheld smart devices that are making the sharing of information extremely simple. As a medical student, you have the advantage of being knowledgeable in the field, knowledge that you can apply to your new career. If you’re looking for a niche in healthcare IT to break into, here are a few options that you could consider:

  • Developing apps for handheld devices: There are thousands of applications being developed for the iPhone and other smart devices. So if you’re interested in writing apps that would be useful to the medical community and if you have a head for tweaking out code, you could make yourself useful by applying your knowledge to this field.
  • Providing knowledge for EMR and application developers: If you’re not too technically sound or inclined, you could act as a knowledge provider and consultancy expert for people who build applications for use in the healthcare IT field. You need to be extremely smart and have years of experience before you can be accepted as an expert though, so it’s best you know your way around the IT field as well so that you’re able to design medical systems as well.
  • Managing and administering IT systems: This job leans more towards the IT side, but as a medical student, you can use your knowledge of the medical community and its workings to provide insight as to how better the systems can be used in order to benefit both patients and medical practitioners.
  • Training doctors to use the systems: Most medical personnel who are set in their ways and methods are averse to the use of technology. But this is only because they do not understand it. With the emphasis being placed these days on EMR systems and other digital applications, it’s only a matter of time before all hospitals become completely paperless environments. And this is why it’s a good idea for physicians and other medical personnel to get acquainted with the new technology that is being introduced by the day. You can play the role of educator who eases the transition from the old to the new and help doctors get used to the new system.

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12 thoughts on “Guest Article: How medical students can get into Health IT

  1. Pingback: ICMCC Website - Articles » Blog Archive » Guest Article: How medical students can get into Health IT

  2. Great points. I would like to point out an interesting NYTimes article on this topic http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/jobs/12starts.html?hpw

    Various academic medical centers (Columbia http://www.dbmi.columbia.edu , Stanford and so on) have some form of informatics program where training clinicians can get a short course on methods in relevant fields such as CS, cognitive science, statistics and how they relate to healthcare and biomedical data.

    Bill Hersh has a lot of interesting overview material on his website: http://www.billhersh.info/

  3. Interesting timing. I’ll take the opportunity to post here an email I just sent to several professors from various fields. The subject line was “Student Project Opportunities” but I believe it is appropriate in this conversation as well. Basically; get involved with a well established, solid open source project.
    ===============================
    Hi All,

    I am not an educator myself though I didn’t do a bad job with my
    kids. 😉

    But I do have a number of friends that are in higher education and one
    of their most perplexing chores at times is helping undergrad, Masters
    and PhD students develop solid, meaningful project ideas.

    I believe that I have developed an idea that can help in some cases.

    I am the leader of an open source software project that is focused on a
    leading edge information model that provides semantic interoperability
    between healthcare systems of all types.

    Within this project and within the broader open source communities there
    are opportunities for both applied and theoretical projects. Of course
    as a project lead I do have a preference for the applied type. 😉

    There are opportunities not only for the obvious programmer, IT analyst
    types. But also in economics, social sciences, business, and of course
    all of the healthcare domains in general.

    I will volunteer my time to help mentor your students on how open source
    communities work. I have over 15 years experience working with free
    software and more than 10 of those specifically in healthcare. I hope
    that many of them work directly or indirectly on my project. I will
    provide all of the support I possibly can for them.

    What I expect from the student is that they will participate in and
    contribute original ideas to online discussions and make attempts to
    learn the importance of the history and future of openly available
    specifications and standards; especially in fields such as healthcare. I
    expect that I will have access to any publications they produce
    regarding this project or open source in general. I do realize that in
    certain situations there are publication restrictions prior to gaining
    credit, etc. But at least access to and the right to publish an
    abstract and citation; please.

    If they are doing an applied project where they are developing
    components for the project, they and you, will need to know that all
    contributions are only accepted for publication under the Mozilla
    tri-license. This allows both proprietary and free/open source use of
    their code as long as it contains full acknowledgement of their work.

    All students will be expected to become familiar with the tools we use
    in management and development of the project.

    The project is hosted on Launchpad at http://launchpad.net/oship
    Launchpad provides us a wide array of project management and planning
    tools. Some of the largest open source projects are hosted there.

    Please do pass this email on to colleagues, higher education newsgroups
    and on groups you may belong to on social networking sites such as
    LinkedIn.

    If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at this email
    address.

    Kind Regards,
    Tim Cook


    Timothy Cook, MSc
    Health Informatics Research & Development Services
    LinkedIn Profile:http://www.linkedin.com/in/timothywaynecook
    Skype ID == timothy.cook
    **************************************************************
    *You may get my Public GPG key from popular keyservers or *
    *from this link http://timothywayne.cook.googlepages.com/home*
    **************************************************************

    ===============================

  4. MBA with focus on Healthcare IT
    Hi Shaid,
    Can you share your views on the business opportunities that are open to graduating MBA students with a strong previous experience in Clinical Data Management?
    Regards
    ReaderRegular

  5. i wud like to know details of opportunities for me as a medical specialist in this field and also scope in INDIA. i need ur help plz reply…thanking you !!!

  6. I’m going to be a nurse, not a doc, but I foresee myself going into informatics at some point. Computer charting and recordkeeping systems currently leave a lot to be desired in terms of efficiency and ease-of-use, particularly for the people on the front lines who have to use it!

    I can’t count the number of doctors I’ve had to help figure out something in the computer chart. And if I’m helping one doc find test results, imagine how many aren’t finding them and aren’t asking, and therefore might not be appropriately treating the patient.

  7. Hmmm no disrespect but if i had your knowledge of the business domain i would be thinking entreprenuerial and not trying to find a job. The govt is writing checks for innovators. Team up with your friend the computer geek and hunt for grants that you think you can aquire. You dont have to do the work. read the grant and see if you can create a business model. Im an I.T. person with 10 years software dev and architectural experience and Ive been studying health I.T. dusk till dawn to get ready. stop thinking industrial age and think information age. especially since you are young you can live on peanuts to set up something that will catipult you in 2 years what it will take a regular corporate ladder guy 20 years to do

  8. hi shahid! i am a doctor with 4 years of clinical experience , currently pursuing my MBA in health management doing a project in implementation of HIS .i want to enquire about any software skills or courses on HIS i need to learn.
    thank u ,
    with regards,
    visu

  9. I actually am a Phlebotomist, but I am going to Nursing school here in the fall. I have found that a nursing degree definitely helps you become a practitioner, which I love, however I am also a IT Geek. I mean I love this stuff. So maybe I should consider using my nursing degree as a bridge to IT implementation. Interesting thoughts Shahid.

  10. Hello. Nice to hear from you. I am a 5th year MBBS student from Bangladesh. I have a huge interest on IT mainly on developing web apps and linux server administration. I use php framework (cakephp) and mysql for developing apps. Though I am still learning by myself, I developed a couple of small intranet apps (kind of EPRs) for my department. My aim is to develop a central EPRM system, Electronic prescription system, Central Drug Database (RESTful Service), Personal Health records etc. for all the doctors specially in my country, I mean I want to make a smooth partnership between Medicine & IT for my country.

    But unfortunately, google is my only tutor and I am a self learner. Self learning is very good, I heard. But it very time and energy consuming..

    I have confusion and questions. Why I am learning this? In my professional life how these IT knowledge will help me? Sometimes I got frustrated. Sometimes I think I am silently killing my valuable time and energy.

    But I am still trying to do something. (I don’t know what i am writing… kind of tired and sleepy. Pardon me.)

  11. I’m in IT, but would like to get into Healthcare IT. How do I do that? Any pointers? I have 5 plus years experience in the IT field.

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