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Database apps for health care

What introductory database courses would best serve a verteran health-care worker?

Dear Molly: I have been a health care employee for 20 years in small offices and have an interest in further database applications in actual clinical practice. It’s evident to me that the future of health care will require applications like this; hence, my interest in database studies. Your articles and advice columns on database careers frequently mention getting a start by taking college-level courses with database emphasis. But the descriptions for introductory courses are so general that they don’t indicate the applications they emphasize. Could you give some specific examples of these courses to help me start the search in this field? Please help me keep up with and maybe advance IT in the medical field for the next 20 years, because I love what I do.

Molly says: Sounds as though you’re trying to swallow an elephant in one gulp. Let’s back up a little and make sure that you understand how databases and health care will interact before you go after general database training. After you do this, you may find you don’t want to learn how to create medical databases, only to help make the specifications for such databases. You don’t need database programming skills to do this, but you will need some other kinds of training.

Here’s one program you might consider–it’s the Medical Infomatics course offered by the National Library of Medicine. You can find out more about it from the NLM’s Web site . Here’s the description of the course as listed on the site:

These week-long survey courses are designed to familiarize individuals with the application of information science and computer technologies in health care, biomedical research, and health professions education. Through a combination of lectures and hands-on computer exercises, participants will be introduced to the conceptual and technical components of medical informatics. The conceptual components will include principles of database design, human-computer interfaces, medical vocabularies and coding systems, medical decision analysis methods, evaluation methods in medical informatics, and strategies for designing and managing clinical information systems.”

If you can’t get into this course soon, you can also try to find something in your area or online that does what this course does. Then decide from there, and in conjunction with your teachers, what kind of further training you’ll need.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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