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The International Partnership in Health Informatics Education: IPHIE, 5 Years of Experience and Lessons Learned

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Abstract

Objectives: To inform the medicaland healthin-formatics communityonthe rational, goals, and the achievements of the International Partnership forHealthInformatics Education –IPHIE, (IΦ E), that was established at six universities in 1999. Methods: We elaborate on theoverall goalsofIΦ E anddescribe thecurrent stateofaffairs: the activities undertaken andfaculty andstudent experience related to theseactivities. In addition we outlinethe lessons we have learned overthesepast six years and our plansfor the future. Results: I Φ Emembers first started to collaborate by supporting andencouragingthe exchange of talented students andfaculty andbyestablishingjointmaster classes forhonors students.Followingthe success of theseactivities, new initiativeswereundertakensuch as the organization of student workshops at medical in-formatics conferences andajointcourse on strategic information management in hospitals in Europe. Conclusions: International partnerships such as I Φ E taketime to establish,and,ifthey are to be successful, maintainingleadership continuity is criticallyimpor-tant. We are convincedthatIΦ Epromotes professionalism of future medical informatics specialists. There will be acontinuing growth of globalization in higher education.Itwill therefore becomeincreasingly importanttooffer educational programs with international components.
The International Partnership
forHealth Informatics Education
Lessons Learned fromSix YearsofExperience
M. W. M. Jaspers
1
,R.M.Gardner
2
,L.C.Gatewood
3
,R.Haux
4, 5
,D.Schmidt
6
,T.Wetter
7
1
Dept.ofMedical Informatics, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2
Dept.ofMedical Informatics, School of Medicine, UniversityofUtah,Salt Lake City,USA
3
Dept.ofLaboratory Medicineand Pathology,Division of Health Computer Sciences, MedicalSchool,
UniversityofMinnesota, Minneapolis, USA
4
Institute for Health Information Systems, University for Health Sciences, MedicalInformatics and
Technology (UMIT), Innsbruck, Austria,
5
newaddress:Institute for Medical Informatics, Technical
UniversityofBraunschweig, Germany
6
Dept.ofMedical Informatics, UniversityofApplied Sciences, Heilbronn,Germany
7
Dept.ofMedical Informatics, Institute for Medical Biometry andInformatics,University of Heidel-
berg, Germany
Summary
Objectives: To inform the medicaland healthin-
formatics communityonthe rational, goals, and
the achievements of the International Partnership
forHealthInformatics Education –IPHIE, (IΦ E),
that was established at six universities in 1999.
Methods: We elaborate on theoverall goalsofIΦ E
anddescribe thecurrent stateofaffairs: the activities
undertaken andfaculty andstudent experience related
to theseactivities. In addition we outlinethe lessons
we have learned overthesepast six years and
our plansfor the future.
Results: I Φ Emembers first started to collaborate by
supporting andencouragingthe exchange of talented
students andfaculty andbyestablishingjointmaster
classes forhonors students.Followingthe success of
theseactivities, new initiativeswereundertakensuch as
the organization of student workshops at medical in-
formatics conferences andajointcourse on strategic
information management in hospitals in Europe.
Conclusions: International partnerships such as I Φ E
taketime to establish,and,ifthey are to be successful,
maintainingleadership continuity is criticallyimpor-
tant. We are convincedthatIΦ Epromotes profes-
sionalism of future medical informatics specialists.
There will be acontinuing growth of globalization in
higher education.Itwill therefore becomeincreasingly
importanttooffer educational programs with inter-
national components.
Keywords
Healthinformatics,medicalinformatics,international
educational exchange
Methods Inf Med 2005;44: 25–31
Introduction
In the next decades, health carewill be sig-
nificantlyinfluenced by our aging society
andput aheavier burdenondelivering
quality andefficient services. To provide
better health care, information andcom-
municationstechnologies (ICT)will in-
creasinglybeneeded.There is no doubt that
parallel to this need for ICT,there will be an
increasing demand for well-educated medi-
cal andhealth informaticsspecialists.Toen-
hancethe education of these future medical
informaticsspecialists,weshould offer
themopportunities to share in the edu-
cational andresearch expertiseand know-
howofmultipleuniversities andhealth care
institutions.Today, international experience
is widelyregardedasanessentialand inte-
gral part of astudent’sand faculty’straining.
Internationally educated medical in-
formaticsspecialists maynot onlyshare
their knowledge at international confer-
ences, butmanyare willing to applytheir
expertiseininternationalresearch projects,
such as the Fifth andSixth Framework Pro-
gram of the European Commission [1]. As a
byproduct, internationallytrainedmedical
informaticsfaculty andstudents mayhelpto
acceleratethe dissemination of acquired
knowledge andskills in the fieldand the
promotion of medical informaticsresearch
results on amore global level.
In addition, internationalexperience in
the fieldwill enhancethe marketability and
employabilityoffuturemedical informatics
specialists.Preparing medical informatics
students for theseroles,however,requires
proactiveinitiatives. In this paper, we re-
portonone such initiative:anInternational
Partnership for Health InformaticsEdu-
cation –IPHIE(I Φ E) that wasestablishedin
1999 [2, 3]. We describe the aims of this
partnership, the universities involved,the
activitiesundertaken andour experiences,
the lessons we have learnedand our projec-
tionsfor the future.
An International Partnership
for Health Informatics
Education
In 1999,agroup of five universities, includ-
ing the University of Amsterdam [4-6], the
Universities of Heidelberg andHeilbronn
[7-11], the University of Minnesota [12],
andthe University of Utah [13-15], agreed
thatinternationalized studies should consti-
tute an integral part of their educational pro-
grams.To stimulate this international orien-
tation andeducation,theyestablishedIFE
[2, 3]. In 2002,the University for Health
Sciences, Medical Informatics andTechnol-
ogy(UMIT [16, 17]) also joined the partner-
25
©2005 Schattauer GmbH
MethodsInf Med1/2005
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ship. The European universities offermedi-
cal informaticsprogramsatthe B. Sc., M.
Sc. andPh. D. levels [4-11, 16,17]. TheUS
universities offerthe M. Sc. and Ph. D. de-
grees [12-15]. Table1givesanoverviewof
the duration,the degrees andspecificchar-
acteristicsofeach of theseuniversities.
Theoverall aimofthis co-operation was
to form anetwork for training andeducating
medical informaticsstudents on an inter-
nationallevel to preparethemfor leading
positions in medical information andcom-
munication technology [2, 3].
These students arethe next generation
expertswho will be responsible for the ap-
propriateapplication of ICTtooptimize
complexinformation processing in health
care. Thesharing anddissemination of
their knowledgeand practical experiences
with other students andfaculty should help
them to become moreproficient in their
field.
I Φ Eaims to achieve its mission by:1)
supporting andencouraging the exchange
of students andfaculty between universities,
2) organizing yearly jointmaster classes,
3) offering ajoint European course on stra-
tegic information management, 4) organiz-
ing student workshops at international con-
ferences, and5)developing andsharing
courseware.
By encouraging our students to become
moreinternationallyoriented, we hopedto
prepare them for internationalpositions
in the medical informaticsfield andto
enhancetheir marketability andemploya-
bility.
Experiences within I Φ E
Student and Faculty Exchange
I Φ Eencouragesstudentand faculty ex-
changesamongpartnerschools. With the
student exchange program,weaim to tailor
students’master thesis work to their individ-
ualinterestsand to offeroptimal challenges
to deepen their knowledgeand skills in a
specific medical informaticssubject. Stu-
dents may, for example, be interested in a
research topic whichisnot amaintheme in
the research program of their home univer-
sity butisinthe research domain of another
I Φ Epartneruniversity.The student ex-
change program offers thesestudents the
option to carry out (part of) their master the-
sisproject at the university thatiswell-
knownfor itsexpertiseinaspecific research
area. Forexample, in the past,the University
of Minnesota wasfar ahead of the Univer-
sity of Amsterdam in its research in the area
of telemedicine. Consequently, Amsterdam
studentsinterested in telemedicine fully
subscribedtotelemedicine projectsatthe
University of Minnesota.Both universities
have coveredpublichealth informaticsas
research themes. Such exchangeshaveled
students to carry out part of their research at
their home site andpartoftheir research at a
hostuniversity.Thus thesestudents areof-
feredthe opportunity to profit from both
worlds andbring home newideas thatmay
addtotheir knowledge andfinalresearch
outcomes.
Theobjective of the faculty exchange
program is to deepen students’ knowledge
of specific medical informaticssubjects by
having I Φ Efaculty members thatare expert
I Φ Epartner andprograms:Degrees
offered:
University of Amsterdam:
Medical Information Sciences
B. Sc.
M. Sc.
Ph. D.
UniversitiesHeidelberg and
Heilbronn:
Medical Informatics
Health Information Management
B. Sc.
+
M. Sc.
Ph. D.
M. Sc.
UMIT:
BiomedicalInformatics
B. Sc.
M. Sc.
Ph. D.
University of Minnesota:
Health Informatics
M. Sc.
Ph. D.
University of Utah:
Medical Informatics
M. Sc.
Ph. D.
Program
length:
3years
2years
approx. 4years
4.5 years
approx3–4 years
15 months
3years
2years
approx. 3–4 years
2years
4+ years
2years
4+ years
Program characteristics:
Founded: 1987
Intake:highschool graduates
Orientation: Health InformationSciences/Informatics
Founded: 1987
Intake:Baccalaureate graduatesinbiomedical
informatics, physicians, informaticians
Specializations:Medical Decision Support,
Health Care Management, Health InformationSystems
Founded: 1981
Founded: 1972
Intake:highschool graduates
Orientation: Medical informatics- total spectrum
Specializations: Management in Health Care, Health In-
formationSystems,Biomedical Signaland ImagePro-
cessing, MedicalDecision Support, Medical Biometry
Founded: 1984
Founded: 2000
Intake: physicians
Founded: 2001
Intake: high school graduates
Orientation: Biomedical/ Health Informatics
Founded: 2001
Intake:Baccalaureate graduatesinbiomedical
informatics, physicians, informaticians
Specializations:Bioinformatics, Health Information
Management,Medical Informatics
Founded: 2001
Founded: 1973
Intake: Baccalaureate graduates
Specializations:HealthInformatics Research Applications,
Bioinformatics
Founded: 1973
Founded:1964
Intake:Baccalaureate graduates, physicians, nurses
Specializations:HealthInformationSystems,Public
HealthInformatics,Bioinformatics/GeneticEpidemiology,
Medical Imaging
Founded: 1964
Table 1 Overview of the characteristicsofeach of the programsofeach of the partner universities withinIΦ E
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26
Jaspers et al.
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in thesesubjects teach at another university
program.For example, faculty members of
the University of Heidelbergand UMIT
have been teaching about hospital in-
formation systemsatthe Amsterdampro-
gram,faculty members of Amsterdam have
been teaching about the formalization and
implementation of clinical guidelines at the
Heidelbergprogram andonthe computer-
ized patientrecord at the UMIT program.
Faculty receive the status of visiting fac-
ultyatthe hosting school, andstudents have
tuitionfees waived.For visiting student re-
search projects, afaculty memberofthe
hosting institution servesasathesisre-
search advisor.Sinceits inception in March
1999, I Φ Ehad 17 student and29faculty ex-
changesbetween the partners (seeTables2
and3).
Aftersix yearsofthe IFEexchange pro-
gram it is nowclearly understood by stu-
dents at each of the Universities. As acon-
sequence the process of application andin-
ternationalexchange hasbecome easier.
Typically, astudentmustfirstcontactafac-
ultymemberathis/herinstitution. Thestu-
dent applicant’sacceptanceinto the pro-
gram is based on an informalassessment of
personality andability, andalsoonthe
topics andscope of the student’sproject.
Local faculty members thenhelpfacilitate
student contactand project definition with
the partnerinstitution. Forstudents coming
to the UnitedStates(US), the US visa appli-
cation process is oftenalengthyand stress-
ful experience; on the other hand,most
European students (depending on their
nationality) whoare going to aEuropean
Union school can easily transferwhentheir
project definition is sufficientlyadvanced.
Foreign students whoare studying in the
United States have haddifficulty in receiv-
ing permission to attend aEuropean partner
school in the I Φ Eprogram.University ad-
ministrationscan assist in the paperworkto
getadmission to their respective country.
Thepersonalpartofthe exchange process
mustaddress nationality,academic andpro-
fessionalachievements,security andfinan-
cial risks. Typicallythe candidatesmust
have sufficient funding fromatrusted
sourceand proof of health insurance to
come to aUSinstitution. Persons tempo-
rarilyataUSuniversity mayhaveaccess to
the university health plans forstudents,but
must payfor the health insurance.
As alreadydiscussed,graduating from
one’s home university maybecombined
with research at apartnerinstitution in avar-
iety of ways,from shortstays to full-length
graduation projectsinthe hostinstitution.
Theimportance of guidancebyacademic
faculty at home andhostsiteshas become
apparent.
More European students have come to
the UnitedStatesthanEuropeansgoing to
the United States. Theimbalanceofmove-
ments between the Americanand European
institutions is likelydue to perceivedlan-
guage problems by theAmericanstudents in
Europe.However,funding issuesand du-
ration of student stayshavealsobeen im-
portantfactors. Forexample, aEuropean
master thesisispartofagraduate curricu-
lum andmay last onlyone year,whileinthe
United States aM.Sc. degree with thesis
preparation typically takestwo yearsand re-
search for the Ph.D.dissertation typically
takesthreetofiveyears. Amajor sourceof
funding for the Americanmedical in-
formaticsstudents at the University of Min-
nesota andUniversity of Utah is from
National Library of Medicine (NLM) train-
ing grants.These NLMtraining grants have
funding arrangements for US studentscom-
pleting their training at aUSuniversity.
However, there is currentlynoequivalent
funding sourcefor foreign students. Forstu-
dents movinginto or out of Heidelberg/
Heilbronnthere is adedicated yetlimited
public(state) funding resource–the Baden-
rttemberg-Stipendium (Baden-Würt-
temberg scholarship).
To
From
Europe AMS
H/H
UMIT
US MN
SLC
AMS =Amsterdam, H/H =Heidelberg/Heilbronn, UMIT=Innsbruck,
MN =Minneapolis, SLC=Salt LakeCity
Europe
AMS
2000 (1)
2003 (1)
H/H
1999 (1)
2004 (1)
2002 (1)
UMIT
2003 (1)
US
MN
2000 (2)
2001 (1)
2000 (1)
2003 (1)
SLC
2002 (2)
2003 (4)
To
From
Europe AMS
H/H
UMIT
US MN
SLC
AMS =Amsterdam, H/H =Heidelberg/Heilbronn, UMIT=Innsbruck,
MN =Minneapolis, SLC=Salt LakeCity,*=sabbaticalsofseveral months.
Europe
AMS
2001 (3)
2002 (2)
2004 (1)
2004 (1)
2004 (2)
H/H
2001 (3)
2002 (2)
2003 (2)
2004 (1)
2002 (2)
2003 (1)
2004 (1)
2004 (1)*
UMIT
2002 (2)
2003 (3)
2004 (1)
US
MN SLC
2002 (1)*
Table 2
Student movements be-
tween I Φ Epartners,
1999-2004
Table 3
Faculty exchange between
I Φ Epartners, 1999-2004
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27
International Partnership forHealthInformatics Education
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Personalcontactisamajor factor in
stimulating student exchange:Exchanged
visitsofstudentgroups andfaculty ex-
changesamongpartnerschools in the past
have been the mostimportantfactor for
achievingstudentmobility.
MasterClasses
Theideaof“Master Classes” wasborrowed
from the fieldofthe performing arts,where
expertscoached novicestoachieve mastery
in their area of expertise. I Φ Eoffersmaster
classes in health informaticstoprovide an
integrativeforum for honors students [18].
These master classes includecomparative
international views of health caresystems,
opportunities for faculty/studentinteraction
andpromotion of professionalism.Starting
in 1999,the week longmaster classes have
been offeredeach summertoselected hon-
ors students from each of the participating
medical/health informaticsprograms. The
master classes have nowbeen hosted once
by each of the I Φ Esitesfor up to four hon-
ors students andtwo faculty members from
each of the institutions. Attendancehas
rangedfrom 25 to 30 participants each year.
In addition to the faculty members andstu-
dents fromeach program,invitedexperts
whofocus on topics importanttothe hostin-
stitutionhavealsoparticipated. Honorsstu-
dents fromthe partnerprogramsapplytheir
professionalskills in smallgroups where
theydiscuss, analyze, andcritique selected
topicsfrom their ownresearch or from the
InternationalMedical Informatics Associ-
ation’s (IMIA)AnnualYearbook of Medical
Informatics.Frequentlythe master class is
arrangedinconjunction with an inter-
nationalconferencesuchasMEDINFO or
MIEthatprovidesfurther opportunities for
students andfaculty to participate in panels
andworkshops.Ateach of the master
classes there have also been opportunities
for travel, sightseeing andvisiting local
health carefacilities. Asite visit to the uni-
versity hospitalorganizing the master
classes to showcase the hospitalinformation
strategy is always part of the master class
program.Overall, systematic evaluations of
the master classes have shown, among other
things,thatstudents highlyappreciated the
master class lectures, felt thattheyimproved
their professionalknowledge andskills by
the international exchangesduring these
classes,and hadmuchbetterinsight into
what is going on in the medical informatics
fieldworldwide as aresult of the master
classes [18]. The high levelofinteraction
among students andfaculty fromdifferent
institutions andcountries hasprovidedan
opportunity for important student andfac-
ultyinterchange andhas fosteredinter-
nationalcollaborations andbetterunder-
standing of the challenges of sharing in-
formatics progress internationally.
JointInternational Course
of the EuropeanPartners
Considering the globalproblems andsol-
utions that nationalhealth caresystems are
increasinglyforced to deal with [19, 20], in-
cluding medical informaticsproblems and
solutions,itwas decidedthatthe European
students should be trainedtomeet the de-
mandsofanincreasinglyinternational
health careenvironment. Forthis reason,
since2001, ajoint internationalcourse on
strategic information management in hos-
pitalshas been offeredfor medical in-
formaticsstudents fromthe University of
Amsterdam, as well as medical informatics
andhealth information management stu-
dents from the Universities of Heidelberg/
Heilbronn. Starting in 2002,medical in-
formaticsstudents fromthe M. Sc. program
of UMIT have joined in the partnership and
international course.
Thecourse aims to answer the following
questions:
Whyissystematicinformation process-
ing in hospitals important?
Howare hospitalinformation systems
designedand why?
What areattributesofgood hospital in-
formation systems?
Howcan we strategically manage hospi-
talinformation systems?
Theobjective is to provide ourstudents with
the knowledgeand skills necessarytobegin
professional, practical work aftergradu-
ation andtobeabletodoresearch in the
field.
Theannualcourse is noworganized into
three blocks.Block1,the firstpartofthe
course,istaught separatelybyteachersof
the respective programseitherinDutch or in
German,using the samee-learning platform
andcourseware [21-23]. This blockalsoin-
cludessite visits in the respective university
medical centers (i.e. Amsterdam, Heidel-
berg,and Innsbruck) andapresentation of
the architecturesand infrastructuresoftheir
hospital information systems. Finally, stu-
dents areintroduced to their exercises. The
students areassignedtogroups,typically
consisting of students from allthreecoun-
tries.InBlock2students starttowork on
their assignedprojects. In Block3students
andfaculty meet for approximatelythree
days at one institution (in2001 theymet at
the University of Heidelberg, in 2002 at the
University of Amsterdam, in 2003 at UMIT
in Innsbruckand in 2004 at the University of
Heidelbergagain).During thisblockthe
finalpartofthe course is jointlytaught to all
students in English.Students do group work
to jointlyfinalizetheir assignedexercises
andprepare their presentations. Finallythey
present the results of their exercises to the
faculty members andstudents participating
in the course [22, 23].
Thus far, allstudentevaluationsofthese
courses have been positive. Besides the
benefitofworking jointlywith students
from other countries,the combination of
presenting knowledgeabout hospital in-
formation systems, and their clinical appli-
cation in different university medical
centers (with differinghealth caresystems),
hasfound to be very helpful. Thestrategy
wasfound to be morehelpful than aregular
lectureseriesattheir home university [23].
Student Workshops
It wasfeltthatsharing anddisseminating re-
search results andpractical experiences
with an international audienceofmedical
informaticsspecialists would help students
become greater expertsinthe field. To this
end, four student workshops at international
medical informaticsconferences have been
held: the first, in 2000,aspartofMIE in
Hanover, the second, in 2001,aspartof
MEDINFO in London, the thirdatthe 2003
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MIEconferenceinSaint Malo, andthe
fourth in 2004 as part of MEDINFO in San
Francisco.Atotalof24graduate students in
the university programsthatformIΦ Epre-
sented their thesiswork to an international
audienceatone of theseconferences. Typi-
cally,students reported theyhavediscov-
ered newideas as theypresented their thesis
work. Forinstance, as aresult of the sugges-
tionsput forwardbythe audience, students
have found additional literaturerelated to
their research topic andhaverefinedtheir
research methodology.Asabyproductof
these workshops,students have also made
newcontacts in their research field.
In addition, the internationalmedical in-
formaticsaudiencehas been informedabout
research issues addressed by newcomers in
the field. Overall, these workshops have
promoted the discussion andexchange of
ideasbetween these newcomers as well as
the establishedinternationalmedical in-
formaticscommunity.
Lessons Learned
Amajor objective of I Φ Eistoformanet-
work for training andeducating students on
an international leveland to have thembe-
come moreproficient in the fieldbysharing
in the knowledge andpractical experience
of faculty members andstudents of the other
partneruniversities. Of each of the activities
undertaken the evaluation results show,
overall, thatwesucceeded in ourgoal. The
international aspectsofeach of the I Φ Eac-
tivitiesare highlyvaluedbyboth students
andfaculty members.Students report that
theyreally improved their knowledgeand
professionalskills as aresult of the I Φ Epro-
gram [18, 23].
The student exchange program has
increased our students’ opportunities to
tailor their education to their individual
needs, while at the sametime theybecome
acquainted with international developments
in medical informaticsresearch.With
the faculty exchange program,wehave
enhanced medical andhealth informatics
education by makingfaculty members
expertiseavailabletostudents of other I Φ E
partners.
We have learnedthatregular joint
coursesare possibleand can be beneficial.
Our experience with the international
course on strategic information manage-
ment in hospitals hasshown that working
jointlyonexerciseswith students from other
countries is very helpful in identifying the
pros andcons of the various architectures
andinfrastructures of the hospital in-
formation systemsatacademic hospitals in
different countries.This comparative analy-
sisofthe hospital information management
strategy of these three European hospitals
contributed to our students’ in-depth under-
standing of the strategic information man-
agementinthese hospitalsand gave them
newinsightsinto ways of addressing com-
mon concerns in thisrespect.The inter-
nationalcourse is nowfullyintegrated into
the three medical informaticsuniversity
programsofthe participating European I Φ E
sitesand credited. One problemwhich still
remains is thateach university hasits ownor
nationalregulations for student credits and
examinations. As aresult, forexample, we
arenot planning to extend this course to stu-
dents at the Americanschools, because of
problems of funding andofstudentcredit
exchange.Inthe future,wemay openthe in-
ternationalcourse to students in other Euro-
pean medical informaticsprograms. In fu-
ture,the course maydevelop in aEuropean
postM.Sc. course for other professionals in
the health carefield,suchashealth carepro-
fessionals whoare heading foramanage-
ment position or forhospital managers.
Thejoint master classes for honors stu-
dents from allour institutions have been
outstanding. Thetwinaims of these classes
are: 1) to enhancethe participants’knowl-
edge by offering additional ‘master’lectures
thatcover in-depth medical informatics
topics, and 2) to have international students
learn from each other by discussing, analyz-
ing andcritiquing topicsfrom their own
research and from medical informatics
articles. Thesecond aimhas been easily
reached.Students see great personalbenefit
in these international exchangesand report
improvements in their professionalknowl-
edge as aresult of these exchanges. Thefirst
aimhas been moredifficult to achieve.Here
we have noticed that, althoughour curricula
hadmanysimilarities, there were also con-
siderabledifferences. What students of one
program knewwas often newtostudents of
another program.The AmsterdamUniver-
sity program’sfocus is lessonmathematics
than the other programs. As aconsequence,
the Amsterdam studentsneeded some addi-
tionallecturesinmathematics to be able to
understand an advanced master class on
imageprocessing. We need to reassessthe
conceptuallevel of medical informaticsin
our curricula in lightofthe contents of the
advanced lecturesoffered in the master
classes. Furthermore,master class lectures
have concentratedmainlyonexpertisere-
latedtothe research programsofthe hosting
institution; further opportunities mustbe
found for content addressing the differences
in health caresystems acrossnations.
We can recommend setting up inter-
nationalpartnershipsofeducational pro-
gramsinthe fieldofmedical andhealth in-
formatics, such as IFE. Our sixyearsofex-
perience have shownusthatinternational
collaboration takestime to establishand
leadership continuityiscritically important.
Funding of our students andfaculty fortheir
exchange is also an ongoing challenge.
Sincethe tragedyofSeptember11, 2001,
we arenow faced with visaproblems for
some of ourstudents.Overcoming these
challenges is critical for international col-
laborationsinhigher education andinre-
search in general.
Future Projections
In accordancewith the IMIA goals([24,
25], see also [26-28]) the members of our
partnership areconvincedthatthere will be
acontinuing increase of globalization in
higher education,inspiteoflanguage bar-
riers anddifferingnational cultures and
laws. It will become increasinglyimportant
to have educational programswith global
offerings [24]. Schools forming such part-
nerships will nowlikelyhaveanadvantage
over others,asinstitutions compete in aglo-
baleducational market.
We aimtoenhancemedical andhealth
informaticseducation andinnovation,first
in ourown medical informaticsuniversity
programs, butinfutureonamoreinter-
MethodsInf Med1/2005
29
International Partnership forHealthInformatics Education
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nationalscale. At the moment, ourinter-
nationalpartnership,IΦ E, consists of
schools in Europe andNorthAmerica. In fu-
ture,wewill consider partnership of schools
from other continents. In thisway,wehope
to fully exploitthe potential of international
education.Wewill make maximumuse of
the advantagesofmodern information tech-
nology,inparticularofe-learning plat-
forms, butwill notabandon asubstantial
amount of classroom education andclose,
personalstudent-faculty mentoringrela-
tionships.Wealsowanttocreatespecialized
courses, offeredbyone of our participating
universities, moreavailabletoall of ourstu-
dents.
As aconsequencewehavehad to con-
sidertuition and“transferofcredit” be-
tween institutions.Inaddition, the chal-
lenges of integrating faculty members
acrossthe sixinstitutions as ‘affiliatedfac-
ulty’ have become an increasinglyrelevant
issue.
In spite of these difficulties, the required
changesinour educational strategieswill be
kept in perspectivesowedonot lose sight of
our intention to provide ahigh quality “in-
ternational” education.Education at the
university levelishardlypossiblewithout an
integrated research environment. Strong
links to integrated clinical andbasicre-
search facilitiesare of equalimportance to
ourfaculty andstudents.
Discussion
In clinical health care, efficientinformation
management is vitally importanttoassure
high qualityand cost effectiveclinical pa-
tient care. In this context, the need for medi-
cal informaticsspecialists to supporteffec-
tive information processing in health care,
through useofICT,has become clear.Since
medical informaticsisarelativelynew dis-
cipline,weare convinced thatspecialists
should be able to share and profit from each
others’knowledge andexperience on an in-
ternational scale. Ourinternationalex-
change program I Φ Ehas been able to
supplement the students’ medical in-
formaticseducation by providing exposure
to: 1) research programsand the specific
faculty expertisefrom otheruniversities,
2) knowledge of other internationalstu-
dents’research work andtheir accomplish-
ments and3)otherinternationalhealth care
systems, and health careorganizations’ in-
formation andcommunication architectures
andinfrastructures.
We believethatIΦ Epromotesprofes-
sionalism of future medical informatics
specialists by exchange of knowledge and
educational experience in the medical in-
formaticsfield acrossboth nationaland in-
ternationalborders. Otheruniversities have
also co-operatedinjoint projectstopromote
multidisciplinary andinternationalap-
proaches in their educational programs
[29-32]. In particular, the IT-EDUCTRA
projectofthe TelematicsApplication Pro-
gram produced teaching materials used by
both educational institutions andhealth pro-
fessionals to remedy the knowledge gaps of
theseprofessionals with respect to health in-
formatics[31]. Health caremanagement
curricula have benefitedfrom international
collaboration by having advanced in-
formation technologies introduced into
their programs [32]. Asuccessful example
of internationalcollaboration in health in-
formaticsisthe European M. Sc. postgradu-
atediploma in health informaticsatthe Uni-
versity of Surrey,which is offeredbyfaculty
of European universities [33]. The Euro-
pean Federation for Medical Informatics of
the IMIA hasencouragedhigh standardsin
education by advancing internationalco-
operation anddissemination of knowledge
through its working groups [34]. In 2000,
one of thesegroups,the Working Groupon
Education,succeeded in formulating rec-
ommendations for accreditation of medical
informaticsprograms[24]. Thenewest re-
gional organization of the IMIA,the Asia
PacificAssociation forMedical Infor-
matics, aims to advancehealth informatics
in theAsiaPacificregion [35].Amajor goal
of allthese initiativesistoacceleratethe de-
velopment of educational programsin
medical informaticsand to educateabroad
range of professionals, including school
graduates,computer engineers, health care
professionals (clinicians), andmedical in-
formaticsspecialists.Insome of the inter-
nationalprogramsmentioned,course ma-
terials were preparedoroffered by faculty of
various universities in ordertofullyexploit
partners’ expertise.
Forthe most part,inthese programs, stu-
dents acquiretheir fundamentalmedical in-
formaticsknowledge at one educational in-
stitution. Our I Φ Einternationalpartnership
hopestocontinue to stimulate students to
become moreinternationallyorientedby
having them prepare their thesis abroad, by
attending ourinternationalmaster classes,
by having the European students attend the
course on strategic information manage-
ment in hospitals andbyhaving thempres-
ent their research master thesiswork to an
international audience. In addition, faculty
exchange withinIΦ Ewill deepen students’
knowledge of medical informaticstopics,
advancetheir methodologicalskills and
teach themtoappraise newresearch areas.
In the future,IΦ Emay offerthese and
other opportunities for additional inter-
actionsamongstudents,faculty andinstitu-
tions to contribute to enhancing profes-
sionalism in the medical informaticsfield.
We have discovered thatmanyexciting ex-
periences occurwhenpeople in the same
discipline from different countries can
meet,interact andshare research knowl-
edge.
Acknowledgments
We gratefully acknowledge the funding of partofthe
I
Φ
Eprogram by the EuropeanUnion (SOCRATES
Intensive Programs) and by Land Baden-Württem-
berg(Baden-Württemberg-Stipendiums).Itisfurther
impossible to thank all persons whocontributed to or
participated in one of the activities of I
Φ
E.Therefore,
we gratefully acknowledge the contributions of all the
students, faculty, and administrators of our partner-
ship since it beganin1999.
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... Since 1998, the University of Amsterdam participates in the International Partnership for Health Informatics Education (IE [22,23]). IE aims to promote and improve medical and health informatics education through international collaboration of baccalaureate and graduate programs in medical and health informatics. ...
... This partnership now consists of six universities: Amsterdam [16], Heidelberg/Heilbronn [7] , Min- nesota [8], Utah [9], UMIT [10] and Washington [11]. IE realizes its aim by organizing international master classes [24] , student and faculty exchanges and workshops on international conferences [23]. On the European level, we developed an international module on 'strategic information management in hospitals' [25,26] that is now fully integrated in the university programs of the European partner universities. ...
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... Since 1998, the University of Amsterdam participates in the International Partnership for Health Informatics Education (IE [22,23]). IE aims to promote and improve medical and health informatics education through international collaboration of baccalaureate and graduate programs in medical and health informatics. ...
... This partnership now consists of six universities: Amsterdam [16], Heidelberg/Heilbronn [7] , Min- nesota [8], Utah [9], UMIT [10] and Washington [11]. IE realizes its aim by organizing international master classes [24] , student and faculty exchanges and workshops on international conferences [23]. On the European level, we developed an international module on 'strategic information management in hospitals' [25,26] that is now fully integrated in the university programs of the European partner universities. ...
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