Faculty Interview with Rebecca Meehan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Health Informatics
What type of health informatics jobs does Kent State prepare graduates to pursue once they graduate?
Kent State University prepares graduates for health informatics jobs in clinical and industry settings, both independently and collaboratively on a team. Graduates are aware that the work of health informatics operates in a context of interconnectedness among all healthcare stakeholders and technologies. Because our program prepares students with the foundational elements of informatics in healthcare, they are able to adapt quickly and apply their skills. Our graduates are prepared to contribute to a team from day one to act as problem solvers for complex problems. Graduates are also able to sit for one of two professional certifications: CAHIMS or CPHIMS.
What are the career outcomes for these graduates?
There are a host of career outcomes for our graduates. Many graduates change roles within their existing workplace, while others choose to work in a new location, hospital or industry. Some health informatics jobs for our graduates include informaticist, informatics managers, systems analyst (typically those without a clinical background), clinical analyst (for those with a clinical background), clinical applications analyst, quality analyst, etc. Our graduates work in major healthcare systems around the country, as well as health centers, pharmacies, insurance companies/payers, software companies, consulting groups and professional organizations.
Are there any important projects faculty or alumni have worked on or are currently working on?
The tremendous advancements in health information technology create many promising opportunities for advancing healthcare and improving quality of life. To see these advancements come to fruition more quickly, it is essential to be aware of and improve the user experience, making systems intuitive and easy to use. Aligning with this framework, I continue to be involved in projects to improve usability of electronic health records. The electronic health record (EHR) has become integral in the everyday delivery of healthcare. Efforts need to be made to improve usability of these records to prevent errors that could lead to compromises to patient safety. I have worked to develop standards for EHR usability with Health Level 7 (HL7)1 and work with healthcare and technology/software professionals to investigate better ways to improve usability. Currently, I am examining error reporting processes in hospital systems and EHR industry partners for usability issues to identify more efficient and effective ways of reporting to resolve the most severe issues faster. I am also interested in identifying ways in which health information technology can help to improve quality of life for older adults living in long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) settings. I conducted research examining the user experience among staff members of electronic health records in LTPAC,2 as well as the user experience of staff members for a continuous care model,3 where LTPAC staff could access the EHR for patients referred by multiple, but not all, referring hospitals.
How do you define the difference between health informatics and health information management?
The program helps students to understand how data and technology can be used to inform quality healthcare. This involves acquiring, managing, accessing and securing information across stakeholder groups, including clinicians, patients, caregivers and industry partners. Students take coursework to prepare them in data strategies with attention to data analysis, reporting, data security, governance and organizational capacity building.
How closely will students be able to work with their faculty advisors?
Faculty provide many opportunities to work closely with students. Students are each assigned an individual faculty advisor, with whom they can schedule appointments. These meetings can be used for academic advising, brainstorming, or for professional guidance about the field and health informatics topics. We work to be approachable, available, and a resource for our students. Please feel free to contact us! We want to work with you!
Any advice for students hoping to work closely with you?
Email me! :) Send an email or a phone call, and let’s set up a time to talk.
Can students get research assistant jobs with professors? If yes, what qualities do you look for in research assistants?
Yes, there are opportunities to apply for graduate assistantships each year at the School of Information. If the student is selected, he or she works with a faculty member on research and other professional development activities. The qualities we look for include professionalism, good communication skills (both verbal and written), and being organized and flexible to help on a variety of tasks. Graduate assistantship applications typically open in January, and students are selected by April.
Kent State University’s renowned faculty will expand your understanding of how health informatics jobs function across different sectors and help you develop the confidence to make solid, well-informed decisions as you further your career. Explore the Online Master of Science in Health Informatics to learn more about where a job in health informatics can take you.
1. Meehan RA, Mon DT, Kelly KM, Rocca M, Dickinson G, Ritter J, Johnson CM, “Increasing EHR system usability through standards: Conformance criteria in the HL7 EHR-system functional model,” J Biomed Inform, 2016 Oct;63:169-173, PubMed PMID: 27523469
2. Meehan, RA, Electronic Health Records in Long-Term Care: Staff Perspectives, Journal of Applied Gerontology, Vol 36, Issue 10, 2017
3. Meehan, RA, Transitions From Acute Care to Long-Term Care: Evaluation of the Continued Access Model, Journal of Applied Gerontology, Vol 38, Issue 4, 2019.