U. of Michigan health informatics program emphasizes IT for patients

The University of Michigan (U-M) has launched a new Master's degree program in "health informatics," which emphasizes the use of information technology in consumer health applications. The field is likely to become important to hospitals as they begin to take responsibility for the health of their patient populations and form accountable care organizations.

Offered jointly by U-M's School of Information and School of Public Health, the two-year health informatics program is accepting initial applications for admission in fall 2012.

According to the announcement, "Health informatics is a growing field in which information is leveraged and information technologies are developed and used to maintain or improve health and to improve patient care."

Graduates of the program who specialize in consumer health will develop solutions, including mobile health and other emerging applications, that help consumers become active participants in the promotion and maintenance of their own health.

"This program will emphasize the game-changing information technologies that will be used by healthcare consumers...to promote health and wellness in entirely new ways," program director Charles Friedman, who holds appointments in both schools, said in the press release.

In September, the University of Michigan Medical School announced it was creating a computational medicine and bioinformatics department that would grant separate postgraduate degrees in bioinformatics and clinical informatics. Brian Athey, chair-designate of the new department, told InformationWeek Healthcare that his department would work closely with the university's health informatics program. He described health informatics as encompassing everything from chronic care management to remote patient monitoring to mobile health applications.

It's unclear how many other colleges offer programs in health informatics. U-M says it's the only public university in Michigan to do so. University College London has a Centre for Health Informatics, and Jonathan Weiner, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health IT, also serves as a professor of health policy and management and health informatics at Hopkins.

To learn more:
- read the U-M press release
- see the InformationWeek Healthcare article