What It Takes to Launch a Healthcare IT Graduate Program

As I complete the first semester teaching in a new graduate program in healthcare information technology, I am reminded of the enormity and importance of the work that has been accomplished at my University to launch a master’s degree program in Healthcare Information Systems (HIS).


I recently attended a presentation that discussed the implementation philosophy and approach of one of the industry’s leading Health Care Information System (HCIS) vendors. I’d like to borrow a few of their points, add my own and then apply this to the work that’s been done to develop my University’s graduate program to its current state:

1)    Don’t reinvent the wheel

This one seems pretty obvious but may often be forgotten. At first glance, it seems logical but can often be overlooked. When looking to create anything, see who might have done the work before. In terms of the above mentioned HCIS vendor- look to those who have already implemented. Learn from their mistakes and capitalize from their triumphs. When it comes to designing the graduate program, several established health/medical informatics programs were consulted. Curricula were evaluated and compared and the best topics and classes selected.

2)    Stand on the shoulders of predecessors.

We can all remember attending the local Fourth of July parade as a child. If you weren’t fortunate to get a seat up front you might have missed the entire show. That is until you were hoisted onto your parent’s shoulders. The view from up there was staggering! This same concept applies to implementing a hospital IT system or developing a healthcare information technology (HIT) graduate program. Draw on the wisdom of those who have gone before you. When the HIS program was presented to the state department of higher education for approval, the different components (program structure, curriculum, budget, and preliminary schedule) were all placed into a predetermined template containing these critical items that the University had created based on past experience. The template provided a uniform methodology for gathering and submitting theses key pieces of data in order to gain the state’s approval.

3)    Learn from others

As a program director who is new to the role, this one particularly applies to me and for others taking on new challenges. This goes hand in glove with standing on (and leaning against) the shoulders of those who have come before. All too often those in a new role want to ‘put their stamp’ on the work they are doing. My advice – talk to those who have been there and learn from them! Listen to (not just hear) what they have to say. For me, transitioning from a more ‘corporate’ role to one in academia, there was a lot to learn. Fortunately for me, there have been a lot of people willing to share their knowledge. Having been a student for many years, I originally thought that designing a class was pretty straightforward and would not be too overwhelming! I can tell you now that I was wrong! What I’ve found is that each hour of lecture (especially for a new educator) typically represents about 15 hours of prep time! This doesn’t even include the amount of time after the class – reviewing and grading papers and other student work. I was very fortunate to have a number of mentors that helped guide me through this process and were available for consultation throughout my first semester of teaching. I just had to keep my ears open and the questions coming!