Skip to main content
Home » Online Education » How a Degree in Informatics Can Help You Improve Healthcare
Online Education

How a Degree in Informatics Can Help You Improve Healthcare

While they don’t work directly with patients, healthcare and clinical informatics professionals play a critical role in community health by tracking and predicting health trends. Ryan Craig, senior director of enterprise analytics at the Duke Analytics Center of Excellence, talks about how a degree in this field puts you on track to put actionable information in the hands of healthcare providers and their patients.

Ryan Craig

Senior Director of Enterprise Analytics, Duke Analytics Center of Excellence

What motivated you to pursue a master’s in healthcare and clinical informatics? 

For me, I have spent my 25-year IT career across multiple sectors, with the past 11 being in healthcare. Since I’ve grown through various leadership roles, I wanted to gain exposure to other facets of health IT

As an IT leader, my organization supports clinical decision making and research by providing data for data science and actionable insight. A master’s in clinical informatics offered me an opportunity to better understand not only the needs of my partners, but how to better manage my organization as an efficient contributor to the overall health system

What advice would you give to prospective students looking to major in clinical informatics? What should they be looking for in a degree program? 

I think the key is finding a program that aligns well with your career goals. Many informatics programs can follow a fairly technical route, while others focus on how to leverage clinical informatics to best address today’s many challenges in healthcare. 

Based on my educational background in business and current organizational role, I was attracted to the broad coursework of the MMCi (Master of Management in Clinical Informatics) program that exposes you to business concepts of general accounting, corporate finance, and marketing, as well as introductions to clinical informatics, strategy, and applied data science. 

The program doesn’t take a deep dive into any particular subject, but rather exposes you to the general principles and how they apply in healthcare organizations. Others occupying technical positions may find alternative programs that offer courses in statistics and modeling, or practicing data science. There are many reputable schools offering a clinical informatics degree, and I encourage anyone to closely research the curriculum based on their goals.

What was important to you when choosing a school or degree program? 

Pursuing a master’s degree is an important investment in your future, as well as a significant financial one. Although the reputation of both the school and program were key criteria for me, the structure of the curriculum and how it aligned to my career goals is what played heavily in my decision. 

The accelerated pace of a one-year program was challenging but fit well into my schedule. I enjoyed the on-site class time over the remote learning option, but having the flexibility of both makes it truly unique. 

As a health IT leader, my goal with the degree was to come away with a better understanding of how to leverage healthcare business concepts and clinical informatics to aid in my decision-making. I felt the MMCi program at Duke offered all that I was looking for. 

What is one fascinating tidbit related to the healthcare industry you learned during your studies? 

I think the one thing that surprised me was the amount of innovation happening today in healthcare. 

Historically, the healthcare sector has seemed to drag behind the times from an IT systems perspective. However, during the “Clinical Informatics Strategy” course, we spent dedicated class time discussing health IT current events, which led to me learning about companies and innovative products being deployed everyday into operational and clinical workflow. 

It was an exposure I don’t think I would have gained if it wasn’t for MMCi.

How do you think we can encourage more students to pursue a career in clinical informatics? 

I have chosen to develop my career in healthcare because of the opportunity it gives me to have a positive impact on the health of my community. As a technologist, I will never be in a position to care for patients, but I can improve how healthcare is delivered by putting actionable information in the hands of clinical decision makers. 

There aren’t many use cases for data scientists more compelling than predicting the onset of disease or risk stratifying a population of patients. As the market demand for these resources increases year over year, encouraging students to follow a path in clinical informatics should prove to be a successful career.

In light of COVID-19, how do you think your education in clinical informatics has prepared you to make an impact? 

I think the COVID-19 pandemic has put a sense of urgency in everyone to understand trends and predictions of how this disease will impact our communities and health systems. 

Much of the clinical informatics focus throughout the MMCi program highlights the importance of transforming data into knowledge, while applying visualization techniques so it is easily understood. This actionable insight is proving invaluable for hospital leaders as they work to forecast ICU occupancy and critical supplies like ventilators and PPE. 

Next article