Graduate students learn how to convert raw data into meaningful health information.

With the availability of raw health data growing at phenomenal rates, one enormous challenge is disseminating statistics so people can actually use the information.

Last fall, graduate students in a course focused on health informatics, working on their Master of Science in Management Information Systems (MSMIS) in the College of Business Administration at Florida International University (FIU), received a real-life assignment from Monica Chiarini Tremblay, who teaches business intelligence and health informatics courses.

“I gave the students recently released nationwide health rankings and other data,” she said. “Their assignment? To develop a dashboard (at-a-glance communication tool) to help people in a decision-making situation factor community health information in their process.”

Vanessa Lora (MSMIS ’10, MHSA ’08), who is also a medical doctor, developed a dashboard that could help Floridians and public health agencies assess healthcare outcomes regarding diabetes.

The dashboard compares counties in Florida with respect to healthy environments and behaviors proven to prevent type 2 diabetes.

One dashboard brought together data about type 2 diabetes.

“It also lets diabetic patients compare healthcare quality and access in different counties, to help make decisions about where to live,” Lora said.

A group called Blue Team created a dashboard to see whether occurrences of teen births, graduation rates and single parenthood correlate with Chlamydia rates; their graphs show that these three situations do lead to higher rates.

Another dashboard focused on factors related to Chlamydia rates.

“Our dashboard can be used to determine where to target money to reduce the occurrence of Chlamydia,” said team member David M. Granda (MSMIS ’10, BS ’09).

Granda added that graphing the data in real time was the most difficult aspect of the project.

“Since data constantly change, the dashboard needed to pull fresh information constantly,” he said.

Project helps students learn to serve today’s population.

For many, this project was their last work in completing their MSMIS degree.

“It was an excellent way of concluding their studies, especially since prior to this course, they completed the Business Intelligence Applications course,” said Tremblay, who based her assignment on a nationwide competition for industry professionals. “This assignment helped them take raw data and create a way to make information available. It went so well that I will be repeating this assignment in upcoming classes.”

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