Workshop Explores Health Informatics in Curricula and Higher Education

The Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Engineering and Technology and the Faculty of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Professions at Birzeit University, in cooperation with Hebron University, organized the “Health Informatics: A Critical Need in Palestine and Jordan” workshop on November 25, 2017.

The workshop, part of the Hicure Erasmus+ project, aimed to explore and fully integrate information technology and the health services sector and to create a common framework of cooperation between industry, academia, and policy makers within these two field.

The President of the University Dr. Abedellatif Abu Hijleh highlighted the importance of keeping pace with technological integration in light of the accelerated jumps in recent years, “The technological revolution that has unfolded in the past decade has led to the need of specialized majors and disciplines such as artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, and health informatics. Interdisciplinary fields, such as information technology, are the key to understanding, capitalizing, and creating new trends and breakthroughs; as such, we at Birzeit University have started an initiative to integrate the various programs within our faculties.”

Dr. Abu Hijleh also noted with pride the initiative, breakthrough spirit of Birzeit University, “We pride ourselves here at Birzeit on adding new academic programs and majors in line with the global epistemic directions and Palestinian needs and ambitions. As an example, we’ve donated 20 Dunams to the Palestine Techno Park, the first of its kind in the region. While the Park is located on Birzeit University’s land, it is open to each and every innovator, and entrepreneur from all Palestinian universities.”

The Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology Dr. Khaled Abaza discussed the faculty’s efforts in providing its students with the skills and competencies they need to participate in, and lead, the fourth industrial revolution, “Most universities in the 21st century need of a technology faculty that adapts to the changes and, sometimes, instigates them. With that in mind, our faculty is designed to serve as a bridge between students, academics, and national and international companies.”

“This workshop,” said Dr. Abaza, “is kind of a bridge, too. It connects experts in the I.T and health services field and focuses on building capacities, skills, and competencies in future generations to come. As Dr. Abu Hijleh mentioned, technology is an interdisciplinary field. It permeates, enhances, and highlights other disciplines. That being said, it will require a lot of effort and cooperation to fully integrate technology into the various academic majors as it well as it has in our lives, and this is what I hope this workshop will start.”

The Director-General of Engineering and Computer Unit at the Ministry of Health Ali Hilo emphasized the fruits of cooperation of the various public, private and academic institutions in Palestine, “We believe that the importance of I.T integration with the health services sector can only be fully attained with the complete cooperation of all sectors of the Palestinian community.”

“As part of the ongoing process of digitizing our patient database, we’ve digitized the national health service providers’ databases and entry forms, and by next year, we would have fully digitized the data entry forms and patient registration in all public hospitals in Palestine, in accordance with the relevant privacy laws and patient-doctor confidentiality agreements. This will ease patient transfer cases and allow the doctors to continue treatment that began in other hospitals and at other health service providers,” Hilo added.”

The Head of the Health Education and Development Department at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education Hanan Abed discussed the intersection of information technology and health education in Palestine, “We are of the belief that a technologically up-to-date education is key to a modern community and the building of a Palestinian state. The ministry, as such, has started initiatives to incorporate I.T capacity building, e-learning, and e-schooling as tenets of modern education. 2018 will be the year of higher education, we will start by digitizing higher-education peripherals, and we will continue to focus on technical and vocational learning and training.”

The National Erasmus Office in Palestine Program Officer Rania Qaimari complemented Birzeit and the other national universities on their enthusiasm and openness to  programs provided by the Erasmus+ office and the EU, “Two out of five projects in the country were presented and coordinated by Birzeit University, and on the regional level, 17 projects were started and fulfilled by Palestinian universities.”

“Our national priorities are information and communications technology and the health sectors, and Hicure, one of our projects, integrates both fields neatly. Hicure not only integrates I.T and health in actual, real-life implementations, but also in learning and teaching. The project aims to further the ongoing cooperation between the industry and academia.”

The workshop, which hosted experts and academics from the Universidade Atlântica, the Jordan University of Science and Technology, Hebron University, the Hashemite University, Hochschule Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, Atılım University, and the Jean-Francois Champollion University Center for Teaching and Research was split into four sessions.

The first session, moderated by Dr. Bassem Sayrafi, explored Health Informatics in Context; the second, headed by Dr. Carol Jabari, discussed Health Informatics Development in Europe; the third, supervised by Dr. Mustafa Jarrar, examined the needs of Health Informatics in Curricula; and the fourth, chaired by Drs. Radi Jarrar and Lina Adwan, reviewed Health Informatics Capacity Building and included an open questions discussion.