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St. Scholastica will be national model in health care information sharing

Students pursuing different health care careers will interact as they work with a common database of clients. They will actually use a computer simulation that integrates emerging medical technology with college curriculum. The process is part of...

Students pursuing different health care careers will interact as they work with a common database of clients.

They will actually use a computer simulation that integrates emerging medical technology with college curriculum. The process is part of preparing students for the evolving digital health care information systems of the future.

With new federal funding, the College of St. Scholastica is poised to become a national demonstration site for the use of computers in health care information. St. Scholastica has been awarded $1.8 million by the U.S. Department of Education to integrate sophisticated clinical software systems throughout its health science programs.

The award comes just as the college will start offering four graduate-level certificates in health care informatics and data management with courses available online.

The five-year project announced Thursday will result in St. Scholastica serving as a national model for health care educators and is expected to attract more students.

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"We expect this program to serve as a magnet for aspiring health care professionals who will want to come to the College of St. Scholastica," said coordinator Shirley Eichenwald. "I think the time was right. There has been a lot of effort at the government level to see computer technology in the delivery of health care."

College president Larry Goodwin called it "a true vote of confidence on the part of the federal government."

"One of the difficulties health care institutions around the country face when hiring college graduates is that the new professionals are insufficiently prepared to work with fast-evolving computer technology," Goodwin said. "This program will address that inadequacy head on.

"The College of St. Scholastica will educate and graduate health care professionals who are fluent in the use of state-of-the-art computer programs."

He said Eichenwald was uniquely qualified to lead the effort. She has been a national figure in the field for 20 years, serving in the top ranks of the American Health Information Management Association and as a consultant. She oversees the college's health information management graduate program and the certificate programs.

The college will work with Cerner Corporation of Kansas City, Mo., to create and install the software. Cerner has been nationally publicized as one of the leading health information technology companies.

Eichenwald said competition for the funding was intense, with St. Scholastica's being one of 19 programs selected out of 150 applications.

She credited the success to an integrated approach involving the various health disciplines. The program may also involve St. Scholastica information technology students.

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She acknowledged that the fast-approaching federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is helping drive the health care industry into a more technological environment.

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