July 2002 - DULUTH, MN The College
of St. Scholastica has been awarded $1.8 million by
the U.S. Department of Education to integrate sophisticated
clinical software computer systems that will include the
use of mobile information technologies such as wireless
networking and PDAs throughout its health science programs.
The innovative five-year project will result in St. Scholastica
serving as a national model for health care educators.
This vote of confidence on the part of the federal government
solidifies St. Scholastica's place in the forefront of health
sciences education nationwide, said St. Scholastica President
Dr. Larry Goodwin. One of the difficulties health care institutions
around the country face when hiring college graduates - even graduates
of the finest institutions - is that the new professionals are
insufficiently prepared to work with fast-evolving computer technology.
This program will address that inadequacy head on. St. Scholastica
will graduate health care professionals who are fluent in the
use of state-of-the-art computer programs to assist in collecting
and reporting data, interpreting information and making quality
clinical and management decisions.
St. Scholastica will work with Cerner Corp. of Kansas City, MO,
to create and implement the clinical information software.
Cerner and the College will establish a national demonstration
site for the use of computers in health care education and for
sharing information to a nationwide audience in the health care
and education communities.
The project will be directed by St. Scholastica faculty member
Shirley Eichenwald, coordinator of the Colleges Health Information
Management graduate program and new Healthcare Informatics certificate
programs She has been a national figure in the field for 20 years,
serving in the top ranks of the American Health Information Management
Association, and as a consultant.
We will infuse extensive hands-on experience using sophisticated,
integrated computer software into professional courses throughout
all five of our health science programs - Nursing, Physical Therapy,
Occupational Therapy, Exercise Physiology and Health Information
Management, Eichenwald said. This comprehensive approach
is unique in higher education nationwide. Our Computer Information
Systems Department will also be involved because they prepare
IT professionals, some of whom elect to focus on health care as
the industry in which they hope to practice after completing their
St. Scholastica will equip mobile computer labs with the grant
money. Each lab will have 25 computers and PDAs with wireless
connections to the Internet, said Lynne Hamre, director of information
The project will use computer-based clinical simulations to enhance
students competence in performing observations, treatments,
and recording results, and will use specialized information systems
to support their clinical problem-solving and decision making
The software is adapted for educational use and features anonymous
patent data. Students will be able to order tests and drugs for
virtual patients, and professors will offer feedback based on
Students training for health care work need exposure and practice
with software and computers used by future employers, said Marty
Witrak, chairwoman of St. Scholasticas nursing department
and health sciences division.
St. Scholastica surveyed health care institutions around Minnesota
regarding the level of their computerization, and found that they
plan to intensify it significantly in the next five years.
In fact, 95 percent of those who responded stated that
the use of these specialized clinical applications will be extremely
important in their organizations over the next 5 to 10 years,
We expect this program to serve as a magnet for aspiring
health care professionals because there is no comparable computer-based
integration of health sciences professional programs in the nation,
Three Institute of Medicine reports over the past five years
have recommended to the health care industry that it aggressively
pursue a more integrated
and computer -based approach to their information processing and
flow, she noted.
And certainly the current HIPAA legislation and evolving
regulations have also placed computer-based information systems
on the health care industry's top priority list for investment
over the next five years.