Sixth cohort of Masters of Management in Clinical Informatics students graduated fall 2017

November 6, 2017

The Duke Master of Management in Clinical Informatics has graduated its sixth and largest class. In August, thirty-four students graduated from the unique, year-long program to begin or continue careers in healthcare and information technology.

The program, the first of its kind, sits at the intersection of healthcare, information technology, and business. MMCI addresses the fundamental business challenges of healthcare, and those challenges—and answers—lie in information technology.

"Healthcare professionals and organizations need to be able to use technology to improve quality and reduce cost."

According to Program Director Randy Sears, students join at all levels of experience—from two to thirty years’ experience. Students enter with clinical, business, or technology backgrounds and learn from each other’s different perspectives.

MMCI is unique because students are intentionally recruited from diverse backgrounds and in different stages of their careers. It's an unusual strategy, but the program directors find that the vast range of experiences and perspectives allows for deeper and broader discussion.

Throughout the curriculum, students work in teams with diverse work backgrounds (tech, business, data, and clinical). Almost half of the students’ work is team-based to simulate how project teams are formed in industry.  MMCi program founders intended this diversity in the classroom as a way to  break down  organizational barriers between clinical, technical and business functions in health care organizations.

Kevin Schulman, Asif Ahmad, former DUHS CIO, and other thought leaders began developing the program when the HITECH Act was enacted in 2009 to promote the adoption of health information technology and meaningful use of data. The act created funding for health systems to adopt certified electronic health records, and Schulman and Ahmad realized that a new skillset would be necessary in the healthcare industry to help organizations adopt and manage these systems. Ahmad pointed out, “We don’t need more bioinformaticians, we need more people who understand how to use technology to change the business model of healthcare.”

MMCI is Duke’s answer to, “What is the skillset needed in an information technology health world?”

At the 2017 graduation ceremony, Robert Califf, MD, spoke and commended the students on their achievement. Currently serving as Vice Dean of Health Data Science at Duke as well as in a leadership role at Verily, Alphabet’s natural sciences division, Califf is particularly suited to addressing students on the cusp of careers in business, healthcare, and IT.

Speaking on the challenges and opportunities that data poses to the healthcare industry, Califf commented, “You don’t have conversations in Silicon Valley about having too much data and not being able to handle it.” Califf, the students, and the leaders of the MMCI program all share a similar vision: they’re drawn to the possibilities apparent at the convergence of data science and the healthcare sector.

Sears said, “The healthcare industry, like it or not, is behind other industries, especially when it comes to engaging with consumers and consumer data in a meaningful way. In healthcare, we’re talking about changing this model, being more proactive by using data to help people make better choices and develop healthier behaviors. Previously, the healthcare industry has waited until the patient shows up at the door to interact with them. This industry hasn’t had to ask, ‘Who is the consumer and how do we build a relationship with them?’”

When the MMCI program was created, organizations needed people to help spearhead the implementation of  electronic health record systems (EHRs).  At the time, students discussed how these new systems would change day-to-day healthcare operations. Over time, the challenges of the field and the interests of the students have evolved. Today, the major focus in industry is on using the systems use the available data to improve outcomes and efficiency through analytics and data visualization.

Looking forward, MMCi will have an increasing focus on how to use increasing amounts of data, data visualization and data science in clinical care and population health. Topics in the curriculum evolve as the industry changes and the challenges matures.  We continually ask, “What skills and knowledge do our graduates need to be leaders in the industry?”

When asked what keeps so many disparate perspectives and voices working together cohesively for students, Schulman said, “It’s an incredibly mission-driven program, and the students and faculty who join are drawn to that. We’re dealing with one of the biggest challenges in our country: how do we get affordable, accessible health care?”

Schulman recalled one of the original MMCi information sessions, “fourteen people came to hear about the program. None of them had a health background, none had a health IT background. But they all had a gut feeling that health IT would be game-changing in making a meaningful difference in the healthcare delivery system. There aren’t many career pathways to accomplish these goals for our community. That is what makes MMCi so special.”

Vincent Miller, a 2017 graduate of the program, said that MMCI provided a unique opportunity to test himself, his abilities, and his understanding of the world. He said, “It’s a conduit that allows you to progress or change course as you acquire new skills, understand new philosophies and push the boundaries of innovation. This curriculum positions you on the cusp of innovation and equips you with the tools necessary to create.”

One of the first graduates to take advantage of the program’s new remote option, John Snow, said, “The classroom experience was incomparable. The combination of world-class instruction, exceptional faculty, great chemistry, rich contributions by students, and challenging subject matter created a great theater for education. There was value to every minute of classroom experience, whether remote or at Duke.” The greatest advantage of the program, he added, was the expansion of his perspective in the quickly evolving healthcare industry. “Sometimes our professional roles insulate us from the scope and speed of industry change. Traditional business models for healthcare are quickly becoming obsolete, and MMCi helped me to understand better how to weave data and information technology into new interoperable platforms which are essential to produce effective and efficient healthcare systems.”   

To learn more about the MMCI program, eligibility, and application process, visit www.dukemmci.org