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August 13, 2013

The Informatics Academy: An Integrated Professional Education Approach

On August 7, the Institute’s Informatics Academy achieved an important milestone—the first cohort of state and local public health practitioners completed the 2-month online short course, “Designing and Managing Public Health Information Systems: 8 Steps to Success.” 60 students from 14 states participated. The course helped students understand key elements of the IT Lifecycle and how they, as program staff, can and should drive the development of information tools they need and can put to meaningful use.

Last week’s closing webinar provided evidence that some important learning had taken place. Students reflected on what lessons were particularly important to their work:

Students learned that identifying and engaging all stakeholders is one of the most important jobs they have—a job that the developers often don’t do. Identifying stakeholders is critical, yet keeping stakeholders engaged is equally important. 

A well-constructed project charter can be a valuable tool for communicating with stakeholders. Project charters explain the rationale for investing in the system, and explain how the stakeholder value will be realized. The charter’s project plan tells stakeholders what they can expect, when key milestones are anticipated, and even when they will be trained to use the new system.

Students learned how common wisdom applies. For example, we all know sayings like, “a job well begun is a job half done” or “sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.”  The course taught them the elements of the enterprise performance lifecycle, an approach to creating and implementing large-scale systems that forces clear decision points before the project proceeds to a next phase.

Because public health professionals are being expected to serve many roles and be aware of informatics concepts, the Informatics Academy approach has been tailored to what some call integrated professional education. Simply put, that means today’s practitioners need to know enough epidemiology, informatics, management, communications, and community engagement concepts to be the best they can be. “Designing and Managing Public Health Information Systems: 8 Steps to Success,” is offered again this fall.  Watch www.phii.org or join the newsletter subscription sign-up for details coming later this month.

David A. Ross, ScD

President/CEO of the Task Force for Global Health, former director of PHII