With only a few weeks before the end of the spring semester and graduation for some students, many classes are preparing for final exams and projects. Students in the Graduate Health Informatics Capstone course, taught by Dr. Cedric Truss, are wrapping up their capstone projects.
A majority of students in the health informatics program are currently working in healthcare, while others will transition into the field while they are matriculating. Capstone projects are selected by students, with some topics including software implementation, process improvement, quality improvement and clinical research process improvement. Some students have even researched how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can be applied in their work.
“They are instructed to incorporate concepts learned during their program of study, and how the project can be applied within healthcare,” Truss said. “I encourage students to make it applicable to their current work if possible, but if they are unable to do so, I do also recommend they make it applicable to a role they would be interested in.”
As part of Health Information Professionals Week, it’s worth taking a look at some of the projects students in this semester’s capstone course have developed and implemented.
Sounding an alarm
After graduating with a nursing degree from Georgia State in 2019, Hugh Aganan began working at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. He’s still employed there and used his capstone project to make an impact as chair of the quality improvement council, an entity that creates solutions for patient care and employee benefit.
Every day nearly 396,000 telemetry alarms go off at the hospital – coming out to 14,000 every hour and nearly 28,000 for each technician to deal with on a given shift. Aganan explained that these machines are designed to monitor patients with sick hearts – ones with dysrhythmias or dangerous heart rhythms – but many of the alarms sounding were simple tech fixes, taking away time from patient needs.
“The capstone’s main objective was to identify some of the issues,” Aganan said. “We found that a lot of the alarms came from technical alarms and are not really patient related – stuff like the patient is bathing, the batteries need to be changed, the leads on the telemetry devices came off the patient, which are like very manual and easier things to manage other than what they are designed to do.”
Part of the project was to create solutions. One of Aganan’s solutions was to create a badge tag for staff to help troubleshoot telemetry on the patient and also teach them how to change batteries. Another was to create pamphlets and other educational materials for staff to look over. Aganan also designed a flow sheet into the electronic health records system to track if and when batteries were being changed – a discussion upper management is considering implementing.
“It’s very important that we mitigate these technical alarms so we can focus on these physiological alarms, which are way more important,” Aganan said. “The whole project is trying to emphasize that it would benefit both the patient and staff equally.”
Amanda Cabrera-Gleason has plenty of patient experience. She worked in interventional radiology for a number of years before she decided she wanted a remote job. That search led her into data analytics and a job with Emory University.
In her job, she abstracts data using software tools for patients with pancreatic and similar cancers, working for a surgeon who publishes lots of research. The normal workflow is pretty segmented – someone abstracts data, someone else analyzes and someone else visualizes it. Cabrera-Gleason wanted to streamline the process.
“Right now my main thing is data abstraction,” Cabrera-Gleason said. “My project now is, I use RedCap, what other tools can I help with the data analysis part?”
After searching, she found SQL, a programming language, along with Tableau, a compatible data visualization tool. Through her project, Cabrera-Gleason was able to show how these three systems can all work together and be completed by a single entity.
“After I do the abstraction, I don’t know where that information goes next,” Cabrera-Gleason said. “My goal with this project is to see if we can utilize the data analysts at the university side instead of just abstracting, doing the whole thing. Do the abstraction and be able to analyze the data here and then visualize it. It’s like a full package.”
Through the project, Cabrera-Gleason has gained a deeper understanding of pancreatic cancer – an aggressive cancer that often targets the African-American population, she said – and how this trio of systems can help better understand data.
“It stuck out just how clear the information is,” Cabrera-Gleason said. “What I noticed is in doing this, it’s very clear who the demographic is, the age and how clear the information is using these tools.”
Keeping patients safe
In her work in eye care, Betsy Saidy had her patients’ privacy and security concerns at the front of her mind.
“Being a patient services representative, there is so much personal information I get from patients to put in the system,” Saidy said. “I know that if that information should fall into the wrong hands that it would be a big issue for the patient. It would put them at risk for their health and financial risk as well.”
She questioned current trends in risk mitigation, information exchange, encryption, data breaches, privacy concerns and other topics to form a more literary-based project. Saidy found the importance of creating safeguards and a plan of action in the event that information is compromised – plans that help advance the industry.
“If all of these protective measures are put into place to safeguard patients and their information, then I think we will actually see the full potential of interoperability,” Saidy said.
Saidy noted that safeguarding patient information is important to telling accurate stories when it comes to particular health instances or diseases, and that when information is compromised, data can be corrupted or changed, painting an inaccurate picture.
Her courses in health security and data analysis were put to use during the project, and she said the capstone culminated the material she learned during her time in the program.
“I’ve learned the information in school, but to be able to apply it, that’s the biggest takeaway from this project,” she said. “I’ve tried to use the things I’ve learned in other classes and put them together in one project.”
A closer look into HI
The health informatics program at Georgia State maintains a relationship with Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Inc. HIMSS provides students with membership at no cost, giving students access to participate in HIMSS webinars, priority consideration for HIMSS program assistants at annual conferences, discounts on certification exams and other resources.
Along with memberships, students can receive further development at seminars throughout the semester. The online program strives to offer equal opportunities to online and in-person students.
“The faculty in the HI program works each semester to offer professional development seminars to go alongside the student learning,” Truss said. “The professional development seminars allow for the students to interact with the faculty and industry professionals to discuss current topics in Health Informatics.
“Although the program is online, we do interact with the students and provide them with the same opportunities as if they were on campus and encourage them to participate in faculty office hours or reach out to schedule time to meet any time.”
Learn more about the certificate, master’s and specialist’s programs in health informatics available with Georgia State Online. For more information, call Enrollment Coaches LaToya and Moisés at 404-413-4393, or email them at [email protected].