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New center to improve health care information technology

Oct. 26, 2010

KALAMAZOO--An interdisciplinary partnership has resulted in the creation of new center at Western Michigan University aimed at improving health care information technology.

The Center for Health Information Technology Advancement--or CHITA--is a joint project by the Bronson School of Nursing and the Department of Business Information Systems.

The center's overall focus is to facilitate better health care by providing solutions to today's health care information technology needs, says Dr. Bernie Han, center director and WMU professor of business information systems.

"Through joint course projects under a collaborative learning environment, both nursing and computer information systems students will gain a better understanding of health care and use of information technology to improve business practices," Han says. "As a result, they can offer ways to more effectively and efficiently organize and deploy information technology for better health care."

One of the center's first initiatives will be to provide WMU students with real world, hands-on experiences. This fall, selected computer information systems undergraduates are working with nursing graduate students to study the workflow of the health care business at Bronson Methodist Hospital, says Dr. Sharie Falan, center associate director and assistant professor of nursing. Students will examine various business processes and, after thorough analysis, develop recommendations for improvement.

"This project will allow us to build partnerships with Bronson, and we anticipate that projects such as this will be sponsored in the near future," Falan says. "Other projects may involve researching software packages or identifying vendor products to successfully meet hospital needs. We want to improve processes to bring out better outcomes, while providing real learning experiences for our students."

The center, which operates out of the Haworth College of Business and the College of Health and Human Services, will address state and federal priorities aimed at using technology to reform health care delivery. Faculty members will pursue external resources to support research initiatives that will support area hospitals, health care companies and communities.

Establishing the center grew out of presentations at last year's WMU Information Technology Forum, Han says.

"The more we investigated the idea, the more we realized the opportunity and potential for wide collaboration," Han says. "This is an important initiative and we soon realized that the need was great enough to promote the establishment of a center."

Center organizers are now exploring sources of funding and developing a website. This year's IT Forum, set for Nov. 12, will represent the kickoff of the center.

The center's long-range plans involve developing strong relationships with business entities, achieving financial sustainability within five years and designing an interdisciplinary curriculum that involves the use of health information technology in the management of health care.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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