Health Informatics Program Teaches Value of Connections

Helen Boehlefeld Hopes to Connect People, Health Systems

Helen Boehlefeld knows first-hand how rapidly the health care field is changing, particularly when it comes to electronic health records. She’s been a registered nurse for 23 years and the neo-natal intensive care coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital for almost as many years. So she decided to prepare for those changes by studying health informatics (HI) at Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science.

Boehlefeld, who will receive her Master of Science (health informatics concentration) in 2016, credits the program for helping her manage the ever-evolving medical environment day to day, as well as preparing her for future changes.

“I love the program, and I’ve learned a lot. It taught me why health records are set up the way they are, and it gave me additional skills that I can use to branch off in the future.”

One of the critical lessons she learned was about the importance of connection — whether that means connecting with others in the profession or connecting health systems across the country to improve patient care. Boehlefeld said she sees a career opportunity in helping connect various parties in the health care environment.

“My long-term goal is to be the in-between person to help my organization communicate with others in the area,” she said.

She demonstrated her commitment to “connection” by volunteering as a monitor for IHE North American Connectathon 2016 at the Cleveland Convention Center in January. Monitors utilize their skills and expertise to review and evaluate interoperability tests of participating organizations. The goal of the event was to “improve the quality of health IT systems leading to meaningful health information exchange and improved patient care,” according to the website for IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise).

To that end, she also connects regularly with local professionals, including members of the first Ohio chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, which she co-founded, to share her HI expertise. She said the outside resources her professors suggested helped her learn about health issues close to her community.

Boehlefeld encourages future HI students to connect as well — by joining associations and focusing on networking — because it will help them apply what they learn in the classroom to the outside world.

Learn more about the Master of Science health informatics concentration at Kent State SLIS.