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Fordham at the Forefront of Health Informatics

Hallway with Cybernetics and and Code on Sides

Forty years later, "never" is right now.

In the mid-1980s, John Chelsom was an engineer studying for his Ph.D., working on a project to use artificial intelligence to manage the care of critically ill patients.

He visited a hospital in Finland where all the data in the critical care unit was gathered and stored electronically. At the time, such a database was like something out of a science-fiction movie. But even then, the head of the unit tempered Chelsom’s enthusiasm. “When I arrive each morning, I can tell instantly how each patient is doing before I even look at the chart,” the doctor said. “The sights, sounds, and even the smell of the room can tell me almost everything I need to know. Your computer will never be able to match that.”

Sitting at the junction of healthcare and information science, health informatics is a key enabler of some of the most amazing advances in medicine and patient care.

Today there are systems that can train a video camera on each patient and analyze the images to tell their temperature, pulse, and even their pallor—pretty much exactly what that Finnish doctor had said was impossible.

At the same time, machines have learned how to mine big data sets to make the seemingly impossible connections that lead to a deeper understanding of disease and drive the development of new drugs and therapies; artificial intelligence is able to interpret X-rays and CT scans, often better than the most expert radiologists; patients are wearing electronic monitors that keep track of chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease; and the next time you need an operation, you may find that your surgeon is a robot! All of this is made possible through the emerging field of health informatics.

Sitting at the junction of health care and information science, health informatics is a key enabler of some of the most amazing advances in medicine and patient care.

The field is essentially the application of information science and engineering to the practice of medicine, and it pulls from a wide variety of other disciplines, from computer science, software engineering, and data science to epidemiology, business, and decision science. And with today’s health care landscape providing such a long and growing list of problems to tackle—from rising costs to limited access to care—practitioners of health informatics are at the leading edge, designing, developing, and implementing scientific breakthroughs to meet those challenges.

“With the world’s population aging and the costs of health care increasing, it’s an important time for health informatics to step up and help ensure better patient outcomes while controlling the costs of delivery,” says Chelsom, now CEO of his own informatics company and program director of the M.S. Program in Applied Health Informatics at Fordham University. “In the most developed economies, health informatics can help make the very best health care available to every patient, but in less developed economies, it can be the difference between receiving treatment and having no access to health care at all.”

Entry-level health informatics salaries are typically close to six figures, with 10-year veterans in the industry likely making almost twice as much.

The rapidly growing field also offers unique and almost limitless opportunities for students looking to develop and apply their technical skills. It could be recent graduates from any numerate discipline who are looking to shift careers; health care professionals who want to move across sub-specialties in medicine; or graduates who have been using computers and information technology in other jobs and now want to get into health care. And it could be any of the above looking to boost their income—entry-level health informatics salaries are typically close to six figures, with 10-year veterans in the industry likely making almost twice as much.

All it really takes is an interest; some background in computing, engineering, health care, or information technology; and a graduate degree. For instance, in Chelsom’s M.S. program at Fordham University, students gain a sound theoretical base in health informatics along with hands-on know-how, taught by faculty members who are all experienced with real-life applications in the field. That means the students are always learning leading approaches on the most cutting-edge technology, as they learn to do anything from building information systems in hospitals to analyzing information for clinical studies to creating apps that enable patients to manage their own health.


Man reviewing code on laptop and on desktop monitors while sitting at his desk

Program Features

Applied, hands-on, practical, industry-driven approach reflecting latest trends in health informatics

Taught from Fordham’s London campus and delivered online, this 36-credit program provides students with a sound theoretical base in health informatics, together with practical insight and experience that will equip them for a professional career in the field.

In the decades Chelsom has worked in the industry, health informatics has expanded and evolved massively. Yet he believes that this field of study still has much more to offer. The only question is: Who are the scientists, technicians, and engineers that will continue to push the power of health informatics forward, making what today seems impossible a reality of tomorrow? “We are developing the next generation of thought leaders in health informatics,” says Chelsom. “These people will push the boundaries of this fast-moving field and make significant contributions to the improvement of health care all over the world.”

Fordham is helping to build the next generation of thought leaders through its new Master of Science in Applied Health Informatics. Taught from Fordham’s London campus and delivered online, this 36-credit program provides students with a sound theoretical base in health informatics, together with practical insight and experience that will equip them for a professional career in the field.