Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New center integrates information technology with health care

A new Center for Health Information Technology Advancement (CHITA) has been created through collaboration between the Bronson School of Nursing (BSON) in the College of Health and Human Services and the Department of Business Information Systems at the Haworth College of Business.

From left, Dr. Bernie Han, director of the new Center for Health Information Technology Advancement, and Dr. Sharie Falan, associate director.

“The overall focus of the Center is to facilitate better health care,” says Dr. Bernie Han, director of CHITA. “We want to provide solutions to today’s health care information technology needs. Through joint course projects under a collaborative learning environment, both BSON and Computer Information Systems (CIS) students will gain a better understanding of health care and use of information technology to improve business practices. As a result, they can offer ways to more effectively and efficiently organize and deploy information technology for better health care.”

“Health care is one of the leading challenges that we face as a nation,” says Dr. Kay Palan, dean of the Haworth College of Business. “New and emerging technologies continue to advance the nursing profession resulting in higher quality health care.”

One of the Center’s first initiatives will be to provide WMU students with real world hands-on experiences. “This fall, selected CIS undergraduates are working with BSON graduate students to study health care business workflow at Bronson Methodist Hospital,” says Dr. Sharie Falan, associate director of CHITA. “The students will examine various business processes and after thorough analyses they will develop recommendations for improvements. This project will allow us to build partnerships with Bronson, and we anticipate that projects such as this will be sponsored in the near future.”

“Other projects may involve researching software packages or identifying vendor products to successfully meet hospital needs,” says Falan. “We want to improve processes to bring out better outcomes, while providing real learning experiences for our students.”

The Center, currently operated out of designated offices in the Haworth College of Business and the College of Health and Human Services, will address state and federal priorities aimed at using technology to reform health care delivery. Faculty members will pursue external resources to support research initiatives that will support area hospitals, health care companies and communities.

“The concept for establishing the Center came about during last year’s WMU-IT forum,” said Han. “It was during this forum when student teams presented IT solutions, called e-Firm Project, to meet the needs of selected businesses. Following these presentations, one of the health care participants suggested that we use e-Firm projects in the health care industries for our students.”

“The more we investigated the idea, the more we realized the opportunity and potential for wide collaboration,” says Han. “This is an important initiative and we soon realized that the need was great enough to promote the establishment of a center.” A proposal was presented to the provost in the fall 2009, and CHITA was approved by the WMU Board of Trustees in April, 2010.

Drs. Han and Falan are currently working with CHITA’s Advisory Board in strategic planning, exploring sources of funding and developing a website. This coming year’s WMU-IT Forum, scheduled for November 12, will represent the kick-off of CHITA. The forum theme is Health Care Quality and Transformation. Details are available at http://www.wmich.edu/business/itforum.

CHITA’s long-range plans involve developing strong relationships with business entities, achieving financial sustainability within five years and designing an interdisciplinary curriculum that involves the use of health information technology in the management of health care.