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May 31, 2015 12:03 AM

Students launch information solutions for health care

A group of second year students in Conestoga’s Applied Health Information Science program showcased their information solutions at a launch event at Guelph General Hospital on May 27. The event provided students Hashim Garsi, Corrie Fox and Sydney Reeve with an opportunity to demo their work to hospital staff over the lunch hour and throughout the afternoon.

Although the student work just launched, Doug Mitchell, director of decision support at the hospital, considers their contribution a “smashing success.” “These students are enthusiastic,” said Mitchell at the launch. “They were able to meet our requirements and solved the technical challenges our report writers faced.” Mitchell also noted that the students’ work had been previewed by the hospital’s leadership team earlier in the day to great reviews.

The launch event was the result of a 17-day placement the students completed in April in which they were required to develop information solutions related to employee attendance, eLearning and respirator fit testing. Thanks to the students’ work, hospital staff can track data (for instance, employee attendance/sick time) and analyze it to look for patterns or trends. Mitchell pointed to the example of departmental staffing. “If we noticed ER staff had a higher rate of absenteeism, then we could ask why. It might be that they experience a much higher rate of stress so we could look at ways to offer support.”

The students began their placement at Guelph General Hospital after completing a course in Business Intelligence- the practice of analyzing and presenting information to support health care decisions and provide feedback on organizational processes. The course was developed by Conestoga faculty member Justin St-Maurice, in partnership with Mitchell and his colleague David Dornan, and received support from Information Builders - a business intelligence solutions vendor. The course was developed last fall and delivered to second-year Applied Health Information Science students from January through March.

When interviewed at the launch event, the students involved all agreed that Guelph General Hospital staff offered an encouraging and positive work experience and appreciated the enthusiasm of Mitchell and Dornan. They were also excited that their learning opportunity at the hospital would continue through August thanks to a hospital partnership with the Guelph Family Health Team. Over the summer the students will support the development of analytics to understand the challenges around discharge planning and how to lower readmissions to the hospital.

Joe Tran, a third-year Applied Health Information Science student, will also be supporting the development of information solutions at the hospital through a co-op placement.

Conestoga is one of only two post-secondary institutions offering a degree in Applied Health Information Science in Canada. The program provides students with the knowledge and skills in health informatics and information management to enable them to make a difference in health care. Graduates contribute to the quality of care that people receive by providing essential information to both individuals receiving care and to health care professionals. They also help ensure the best use of health care resources by facilitating the tracking of health care services and the evaluation of better ways to provide service. For more information, visit the program website.

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