Health care data courses draw in students

A popular module in Virginia Tech’s nationally ranked master of information technology program prepares students for jobs in health care data management.

As health care data increases in volume and complexity, so does the demand for competent professionals and programs that equip students with the specialized knowledge and skills.

Pamplin College of Business faculty teach a two-course offering in health information technology. It’s part of Virginia Tech’s online master of information technology degree program, ranked No. 2 among the nation’s best distance-learning courses in U.S. News & World Report’s Top Online Education rankings for 2014.


Lara Khansa Lara Khansa, associate professor of business information technology, teaches the Healthcare Information Technology course.

The module is so popular “that it generally reaches capacity within 48 hours of open registration,” said program director Tom Sheehan. “That’s a testimony to the dedication of Professors Lara Khansa and Steve Sheetz, who teach the courses,” Sheehan said.

“But it’s also evident that, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the quantity and complexity of health care data will increase exponentially,” he said.

“That legislatively mandated increase is compounded by the aging of the baby boomers, all of which puts a sense of urgency into the education of competent professionals who will be capable of leading the search for solutions.”

Courses in health information technology help students become more qualified for jobs that the Affordable Care Act has generated, said Khansa, associate professor of business information technology, who teaches the first course in the sequence.

“Students recognize that they need to differentiate themselves with a unique skills set that will land them their dream job, and this is the industry to be in at the moment,” she said.

The courses, taught over the summer, were introduced in 2012 and are Pamplin’s most-recent addition modules in the master of information technology degree program.

Healthcare Information Technology, the first course, provides a comprehensive overview of information technology in health care systems so students can understand electronic health record systems and related new technologies and how they can improve patient health.

The second course, Healthcare Data Management, is taught by Sheetz, an associate professor of accounting and information systems.

Building on the first course, it provides an in-depth look at electronic health record issues and topics.

Electronic health records “are at the heart of technology-based efforts to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of providing healthcare,” Sheetz said. “Thus, students need a deep level of understanding of the data … to appreciate and measure the implications of process improvements.”

One of the obstacles facing health care providers, he said, is the integration of data from multiple sources to form a comprehensive record.

He said his course aims to make students aware of the issues and to develop their abilities to use data warehousing and data mining techniques to identify the most effective and efficient treatments to reduce overall health costs.

In addition to the Health Information Technology module, Sheehan said, students interested in the health care industry are encouraged to take two other Pamplin modules that provide the core background: Business Information Systems, which covers database implementation, and Decision Support Systems, which covers the use of that data in optimizing health care delivery.

  • For more information on this topic, contact Sookhan Ho at 540-231-5071.

By the numbers: Master of Information Technology

2: National ranking of Virginia Tech’s online master of information technology degree program in U.S. News & World Report’s Top Online Education report for 2014

5: Departments that teach the program’s courses: Accounting and Information Systems, Business Information Technology, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Management

7: Modules in the program: business information systems, decision support systems, health care information technology, information security, software development, networking, and telecommunications

4: Foundation courses that prepare students for any three of the seven modules

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