Clinical Informatics Medical Student Elective

William Hersh, M.D.
Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology
Oregon Health & Science University
Course Director
Last updated: September 30, 2021

This document contains the Course Syllabus for the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) medical student elective course, Clinical Informatics. The course is offered in two formats, a two-week block (705B) or over a full academic quarter (709A). Both versions of the course provide the same content and anticipate about 72 hours of work. This course is derived from the graduate-level introductory course at OHSU, BMI 510. It is fully virtual and mostly asynchronous, although students are encouraged to interact with the instructor and other students during the course. There are no prerequisites.


The goal of this course is to provide a detailed overview of clinical informatics for medical students who want to learn more or possibly pursue a career in the field. It provides a broad understanding of the field from the vantage point of those who implement, lead, and develop IT solutions for improving health, healthcare, public health, and biomedical research. It provides up-to-date details on current events in the field, including electronic health records, data standards and interoperability, clinical decision support, healthcare data analytics, population health, patient engagement, and telemedicine. It also describes and sets the context for new technologies, such as SMART on FHIR, machine learning, wearables, and blockchain. Also covered are informatics issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Course Logistics

The course provides a broad overview of the field, highlighting the key issues and challenges for the field. The course is taught in a completely asynchronous manner, i.e., there are no "scheduled" classes. However, students must keep up with the course materials so they can benefit from the interactive discussion with faculty and other students. . The course uses the following teaching modalities:


The instructor for the course is William Hersh, MD. The best way to reach him is via email (hersh@ohsu.edu). You may also find interesting reading in his blog.


The following table outlines the curriculum with unit number and topic. All materials are made available at the beginning of the course, and students should pace themselves according to the two-week or one-quarter schedule.

The course has no required textbook. Students are  provided comprehensive lists of references for topics covered in the lectures. There is an optional textbook (co-edited by the course instructor) that students may want to consider: Hoyt RE, Hersh WR, Eds. (2018). Health Informatics: Practical Guide, Seventh Edition, available from Lulu.com
in paper and eBook format. The reading assignments from the book are optional, and no material will appear on the homework quizzes or final exam that is not also covered in the class. But some students prefer to also read a textbook when learning. The appropriate chapter readings for each unit in the course are as follows:

Textbook Chapter(s)
Overview of Field and Problems Motivating It
Biomedical Computing 3
Electronic and Personal Health Records (EHR, PHR)
2, 4
Standards and Interoperability 5
Data Science and Artificial Intelligence 7, 8, 16
Advancing Care With the EHR 6, 9
EHR Implementation, Security and Evaluation 4, 10
Information Retrieval (Search)
Research Informatics
18, 20
Other Areas of Informatics
12, 13, 14, 19

Detailed Course Outline

1. Overview of Field and Problems Motivating It
1.1 What is Biomedical and Health Informatics?
1.2 A Short History of Biomedical and Health Informatics
1.3 Problems in Healthcare Motivating Biomedical and Health Informatics
1.4 Who Does Biomedical and Health Informatics?
1.5 Resources for Field - Organizations, Information, Education

2. Biomedical Computing
2.1 Types of Computers
2.2 Data Storage in Computers
2.3 Computer Hardware and Software
2.4 Computer Networks
2.5 Software Engineering

3. Electronic and Personal Health Records (EHR, PHR)
3.1 Clinical Data
3.2 History and Perspective of the Health (Medical) Record
3.3 Definitions and Key Attributes of the EHR
3.4 Benefits and Challenges of the EHR
3.5 EHR Examples
3.6 Personal Health Records

4. Standards and Interoperability
4.1 Standards and Interoperability: Basic Concepts
4.2 Identifier and Transaction Standards
4.3 Message Exchange Standards
4.4 Terminology Standards

5. Data Science and Artificial Intelligence
5.1 Data Science and Data Analytics
5.2 Clinical Decision Support (CDS)
5.3 Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
5.4 Natural Language Processing
5.5 Imaging Informatics

6. Advancing Care With the EHR
6.1 Patient Safety and Medical Errors
6.2 Healthcare Quality Measurement and Improvement
6.3 Health Information Exchange (HIE)
6.4 Population Health
6.5 From Meaningful Use to Promoting Interoperability

7. EHR Implementation, Security, and Evaluation
7.1 Clinical Workflow Analysis and Redesign
7.2 EHR System Selection and Implementation
7.3 Telemedicine and Telehealth
7.4 Privacy and Security
7.5 Evaluation of the EHR

8. Information Retrieval (Search)
8.1 Information Retrieval
8.2 Knowledge-based Information
8.3 Content
8.4 Indexing
8.5 Retrieval
8.6 Research: Evaluation and Future Directions

9. Research Informatics
9.1 Clinical Research Informatics
9.2 Overview of Basic Molecular Biology
9.3 Translational Bioinformatics
9.4 From Clinical Genetics and Genomics to Precision Medicine
9.5 Genomics Data in the EHR and Other Information Systems

10. Other Areas of Informatics
10.1 Nursing Informatics
10.2 Consumer Health Informatics
10.3 Public Health Informatics
10.4 Evidence-Based Medicine
10.5 Clinical Practice Guidelines