- The Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University (IU) have announced a new program focusing on training researchers in population health informatics.
Funded by a $2.5 million award from the National Library of Medicine, the collaboration between Regrenstreif, the Indiana University School of Medicine, and IU's Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, will help to prepare graduate students and post-doctoral fellows for advanced careers in the healthcare industry.
"There is a pent-up demand for informaticians with new skill sets in both public health and population health, but there has been a lack of educational and training programs to meet this need," said Regenstrief Institute investigator Brian E. Dixon, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology in the Fairbanks School of Public Health.
While many population health management and chronic disease management initiatives are rooted in the clinical care system, public health departments at the local, state, and federal level are also in need of experts with analytics and informatics skills, Dixon added.
"As the healthcare industry transitions to population health, it will take new scientists who can employ machine learning, big data mining, predictive modeling, as well as other skills and core concepts from informatics at the population level to help health systems manage cohorts of individuals who have a particular disease, providing routine care for individuals with acute or chronic illnesses at a level that is consistent with trends in reimbursement going forward," he said.
Increased collaboration and data sharing between policymakers, academic researchers, and clinical care providers will be essential for succeeding with population health management goals, said Titus Schleyer, DMD, PhD, the Clem McDonald Professor of Biomedical Informatics at IU School of Medicine, who is co-directing the program with Dixon.
"The US healthcare system is trying to learn how to do two things these days: how to take care of populations, not just patients, and, how to keep people healthy instead of waiting until they get sick,” said Schleyer. “To achieve both these goals, we need the kind of public and population health informatics researchers and practitioners that our unique program will train."
The program is open to a wide variety of students, including those with bachelors or masters degrees in mathematics, computer science, or statistics. Genetics, nursing, dentistry, and public health students will also be considered for awards that will lead to a PhD in Health Police and Management from the Fairbanks School of Public Health.
Recent PhD recipients in the fields of epidemiology, health services research, health policy and management, social science, decision science, information science, computer science, or informatics will also be considered for post-doctoral fellowships.
"Given the rapid growth in health-related data, from clinical and genomic data, to a wide array of social and behavioral determinants of health, it's more important than ever that we train experts in informatics who can lead efforts to improve the health and health care of individuals and populations," said Peter Embi, MD, Regenstrief Institute president and CEO; associate dean, IU School of Medicine and vice-president for Learning Health Systems at IU Health.
"As one of the nation's leading informatics institutions, the Regenstrief Institute is proud to continue the important work of training future informaticians through this NLM-supported program."
Students will learn how to manage and analyze big data, develop new methods for addressing population health challenges, translate research results into actionable strategies for improving the health of patients, and use social and behavioral science concepts to solve difficult problems in the population health space.
"To truly change the health of entire populations you need a deep understanding of public health," said Paul Halverson, DrPH, founding dean of the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health. "The partnership with the Fairbanks School of Public Health will equip trainees with the population health knowledge they need to understand the complex data of health care."