The Health IT World | UMBC Faculty Focus with Paul Mulhern

If you’re interested in the Health IT world, check out this interesting interview we did with UMBC’s Health IT graduate program adjunct faculty member, Paul Mulhern. He explained how UMBC’s program sets students up for success and prepares them for the ever-changing industry.

Paul Mulhern is a licensed social worker in both Maryland and Virginia, and also earned his MBA. He’s worked in the federal government on informatics projects and also clinical work in the field.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and readability.

The Health IT World

How did you get into the health IT world?

I’ve worked in several different industries throughout my career so far, and all related to the health IT world in some aspect. They’ve afforded me the opportunity to see the healthcare system from many different vantage points. For instance, I focused on healthcare work at a micro level by providing healthcare to a single person. I’ve also worked at a macro level in the federal government at the National Institutes of Health at the Department of Defense. There I managed informatics projects. Additionally, I’ve also worked as a clinical reviewer for different insurance companies. In those roles, I also managed informatics projects. Today, I’m also teaching. Teaching fit well because I had diverse experience to bring to students. That’s been really rewarding for me and hopefully for them.

Which courses do you teach at UMBC? And how to students benefit from your instruction?

I teach two classes within the Health IT program at UMBC to prepare students to enter the health IT world – Health IT Policy and the capstone course.

In the Health IT policy class, we go through some foundational health care legislation, such as HIPAA. I added the Affordable Care Act to the curriculum as well. We go through a basic overview of economics. We discuss the difference between healthcare medical economics and general economics. One of the aspects we analyze around economics is how to create a profitable business around human healthcare. Such a niche angle like this is different than almost any other aspect of business or commerce.

I also assign students essay assignments. I challenge them with a healthcare issue and ask them to investigate the problem and offer solutions to resolve it from various viewpoints. For example, we took a look at the healthcare costs that come with human suffering. The discussion that followed created a lot of diverse ideas. It’s one of my favorite essays to assign the class and one that offers great potential in the health IT world.  It feels great to bring complex healthcare issues into the policy class and observe how students react to them and come up with creative solutions. They wrap their heads around the issues and explore where technological solutions can break through complex barriers.

I also teach the capstone class, which is essentially the program’s thesis.  I encourage students to write about something for which they have great passion. In return, they come back with amazing topics and concepts. Recently, students presented on mobile health apps to incorporate data into patient portals and insurance program case management programs to improve people’s health. The students wrote a fascinating paper that opened everyone’s minds. That type of innovation is what makes the program so special. We do a lot of thoughtful healthcare work in the class.

What do you like most about teaching?

My favorite part about teaching is that it gives me a sense of purpose in the world. It’s intangible rewards are similar to clinical work. After all, no one does social work for the money. They do it because it fills something inside of them. For me, walking out of a three hour lecture and smiling at the sense of fulfillment from it, gives me the same feeling I get from seeing patients back-to-back in my own practice.

The number one complaint of clinical health care managers is that the technologists don’t understand what they need to be successful. There’s such a value in bringing clinical people into a health technology program and UMBC leadership understands that. The faculty understand the in’s and out’s of the health IT world. As a community, we all work together to prepare our students for a successful career. That’s why this program is so special to me. It embraces this clinical viewpoint in a way that makes it valuable and understood.

What should students expect when entering UMBC’s Health IT program?

Students who enter this program will learn about foundational information. We’ll educate them on the important facts of basic legislation and give them a strong understanding of its applications. At UMBC, we teach to compliment the technology training that the students may have received through institutions. We do this by taking technology and applying it to current events. Luckily, there’s a ton of current event issues and policies they can apply it to. Much of what they’re learning in terms of technology is extremely important to those who advocate within the community. Students will need the technology to capture and gather back up data to strengthen the cases for which they are advocating.

Students can expect to be prepared and challenged to understand complex health issues and see the world through the eyes of clinical people.

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