Online Students Learn About Health IT’s Role in Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic is impacting all areas of health care, and health information technology specialists can benefit from being informed about the role they can play in helping to combat it. Students in the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health’s online HealthInformatics@GW MS program recently had the opportunity to participate in an immersion course that focused on what they should know about this public health crisis.

This first-ever three-day immersion event on the topic drew 13 HealthInformatics@GW students from around the country to Washington, DC for the class held at the Milken Institute School of Public Health’s award-winning LEED Platinum building in Foggy Bottom. The opioid epidemic's widespread impact was reflected by the 18 experts from around the country in the private sector, nonprofits and federal and state government who shared their expertise with the students.

Seated in a conference room with a panoramic view of DC’s Washington Circle, the students heard perspectives about how the issue has affected health information technology across the U.S. The federal government experts who came to share their views included officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Veteran’s Administration. State level health information technology representatives from Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island were also on hand.

The nonprofit and private sector organizations who spoke about their observations and expertise included specialists from Audacious Inquiry, DUSTOFF Technologies, the eHealth Initiative, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Kaiser Permanente, McKinsey & Co., the Sequoia Project and Surescripts.

Cybersecurity, e-prescribing and more
The topics covered included cybersecurity, e-prescribing initiatives and technologies available to address the opioid problem along the continuum of care. The role played by the social determinants of health related to the conditions in places where people live, learn, work and play was also an important topic of discussion.

Carlis Bender, who will be graduating with her MS in Health Informatics in April, was one of the students in attendance. She said the format of both the opioid immersion and the program as a whole was proving itself to be very useful for her. She lives in Atlanta, and is looking to move into healthcare informatics after spending more than 20 years in information technology.

Marquita Dill, another of the students in the immersion, said she was particularly interested in what she was learning about differences in state laws that can hamper the exchange of data. It’s a germane issue for her as the residency program coordinator for the Pathology program at Howard University, which is located in Washington, DC and therefore in close proximity to the states of Maryland and Virginia.

Like all immersions held on the GW campus, this one also included a special event. All of the students enjoyed their dinner at the beautiful Arts Club of Washington, which is known for its fine dining and exhibitions of the work of respected artists and photographers.