New Cohort of Health Professionals to Bridge the Digital Healthcare Divide

In an era marked by groundbreaking technological advancement, the healthcare sector must keep pace.

We face a critical juncture where artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics necessitate a swift and coordinated response. A forward-thinking healthcare system depends on understanding and leverage emerging areas like data governance and digital health equity to improve patient-centred care like never before.

As such, healthcare professionals must be trained in data and information technologies, create new roles to optimize their use, and understand how we can implement data-driven innovations in an equitable way.

The Digital Health and Data Analytics (DHDA) program at The Michener Institute of Education at UHN positions graduates to respond to this rapidly evolving digital world. And this year, the first graduating cohort is ready to narrow the gap between data and healthcare.

How to solve the problems of today with the solutions of tomorrow

Pragmatic and job-oriented, the DHDA program is a comprehensive, six-semester program that tackles modern challenges and prepares graduates, or digital health professionals, for an exciting future in healthcare.

Catering to university graduates, IT professionals, and current healthcare specialists looking to explore new digital solutions, the program positions graduates to respond to a rapidly evolving digital world and its impact on healthcare.

Specifically, Michener is responding to problems facing clinicians and administrative staff, such as, ‘How can we use data to enhance wound care?’, ‘How can we effectively treat as many patients as possible while retaining a compassionate care model?’ and ‘How do we keep patient information safe in an age of increased cybersecurity threat?’

To answer these questions, today’s education must evolve alongside tomorrow’s digital and data-driven world.

“More technologies, data, and information are coming at us at all times,” says David Wiljer, Executive Director of Digital Education at UHN and DHDA Program Advisory Committee Chair. “We need a new cohort of educated, future-thinking professionals who can ensure we optimize and take advantage of innovations; this is the pipeline to future care. If we do not think about this opportunity as carefully as possible, we will not have a healthcare system with a solid foundation or future.”

Much of the data and information currently in the healthcare system remains unused or under utilized. However, this program provides the education for students to make sense of immense amounts of data and use the data in conjunction with tools like artificial intelligence, for example.

Supported by an excellent faculty of clinicians, practitioners, designers, and educators, Michener and their students are addressing digital health head-on.

The immediate impact of digital health and data analytics

For Michener, a primary objective of the DHDA program is to ensure students can put their knowledge into action as quickly as possible, both in class and after graduation.

While a robust theoretical foundation is essential, the emphasis lies in equipping individuals with the important insights they need upon entering the workforce. The program focuses on real-world systems, practical projects, and a curriculum deeply tied to the realities of the healthcare sector.

DHDA students are poised to harness the power data science, data visualization, machine learning, and other tools and platforms that can enhance patient outcomes. And through this approach, students naturally learn about the gaps and areas of overlap between technology and education.

“After joining the program, a new world was opened up, and I started to look at healthcare differently,” says Marc Paderon, AgeTech Partnerships Manager at Pontosense and DHDA graduate. “At Michener, I began using tools that could advance what is happening in healthcare today. Very quickly, learning was hands-on, and we continuously connected themes across classes. If you asked me a few years ago what I would be interested in working on, I would not have known this subject matter existed and now understand what’s possible.”

As a result, students are exposed to various facets of the hospital environment and encouraged to collaborate with diverse healthcare professionals.

“We enable students to get out in the real world and acquire immediately transferrable skills,” says David Wiljer. “Some are exposed to artificial intelligence tools being developed and tested, whereas some have worked in the emergency room to understand how it operates and how to optimize workflow.”

This exposure equips them with a comprehensive understanding of the entire ecosystem, which can be invaluable when seeking unique and meaningful roles after graduation.

The flourishing future of technology-enabled healthcare

In the information age, all sectors must respond quickly and learn how to adapt. After all, the rules of the game change regularly alongside a constantly evolving digital landscape.

At Michener, the DHDA program is well-positioned to ensure digital healthcare moves in the right direction without sacrificing quality of care. Students learn in an environment that encourages them to utilize data and develop data-driven strategies that improve quality and access in today’s healthcare system.

Moreover, the skills developed during six semesters are increasingly sought-after in a healthcare system under pressure.

“Upon finishing the program, I was quickly able to transition into a role within UHN’s Patient Education department and utilize the skills I learned in the DHDA program,” says Marc Paderon. “I immediately brought a new technical perspective with the skills I built up through my education. I always knew I wanted to be in healthcare, but being involved in a completely new and innovative way is incredibly exciting.”

Where there are gaps in the system or divides between technology, data and healthcare, a new age of digital healthcare professionals is here to shake things up.

This first DHDA cohort is a real-life example of an evolving healthcare sector. Their passion, subject matter expertise, and creativity within the digital landscape will not only deliver new solutions for the healthcare field but also shape its future.

“This is the program the healthcare system needs,” says David Wiljer “Not for the sake of technology, but for the sake of better patient care.”