HHS 440: Technology in Health and Human Services

Week 1 - Instructor Guidance


picture of an integrated circuit

Information technology has become a part of our every day lives. Technology is everywhere...in our phones, TVs, our cars, and even in our bodies! Individuals expecting to work in the fields of health and human services will need to become savvy at many different types of technology to perform even the most basic aspects of their work.

Learning Outcomes

This week students will:

  • Explain how the basics of technology, including hardware and software, networking, and wireless technology relates to healthcare services.
  • Assess the ways in which technology can be used to provide more efficient and effective, client-centered healthcare services.


In this section you will find my own thoughts and teaching on the subject matter. This does not substitute for the assigned and suggested course readings and other materials.

Hello! Welcome to Week 1 of the course!

My name is Mark Kavanaugh and I have been involved in the transforming worlds of social services, mental health, medicine, social work, and higher education for my entire career. While I truly feel that the way we actually do our work has not changed much, the technology certainly has! That is what this course is all about...how technology is changing the way we complete aspects of our work. It might not make you do "nursing" or "counseling" or even some of your "teaching" very differently, but it may have profound impacts on your work.

History and Technology

One of the challenges of living in this age is that technology changes very fast. In the past one could pretty much assume that most of the technology we watched our parents use is the same technology we will use. Farmers who watched their parents use a plow could pretty much assume that they would use a plow just like it when they became farmers. Preparing for the future was as simple as learning how to use the tools right in front of you. This is no longer the case!

Technology does not only change from generation to generation, but it will change WHILE YOU ARE STILL USING IT! You can bank on the notion that while you are working in your respective fields, the technology that you used to use at the beginning will become outdated and new technology will be introduced.

How do you prepare for THAT?

We need to learn to be flexible and responsive...and most of all, WILLING to learn new tricks and new methods. We might not always LIKE it, but we are certainly going to have to adapt if we are going to keep up.

Click HERE to visit a fascinating site "The Quickening Pace of Technological Change: (c 1850-1900)

Consider this Story

Here is a story that a student of mine recently related in class. This student has a long history of combat-related PTSD and is under treatment at the local mental health center. Recently he was awarded disability benefits. His hearing was held in Augusta, Maine. In the room was the representative from the State of Maine and an advocate working with this student.

The judge was on one screen (from Portland, Maine) and a specialist Psychologist was on another screen (from Washington, DC). A conversation was had and the judge posed a question to this student regarding his use of substances. According to the judge's records, the student had reported that once in a while he had a beer and the judge wanted to know if substances were an issue.

The student was confounded by where this information came from.

As it turns out...at the Mental Health Center where this client goes for counseling they have a system where each client waiting for an appointment is given a tablet. They fill out a survey on the tablet and answer questions as to their current status and recent psychosocial changes. One question on this survey asked if the client drinks...the student reported that he had had a beer that week (he otherwise does not drink at all, he was attending an event).

This statement was highlighted by the agency's computer, placed in his record, and sent along with an additional electronic note to all his providers (including the record that went to the judge) instantaneously.

The question by the judge was fair and the student was successful in getting his disability benefits approved. However, the experience really highlighted how technology plays a role in the medical / mental health / legal system!

Chapter 1: Introduction to Information Technology - Hardware, Software, and Telecommunications

Learning often involves getting used to using a new vocabulary...sometimes even to describe something you already know about. This is very true in my field of psychology where terminology is very important.

As you read this chapter pay close attention to all the different terms that are used to describe the technology you will be introduced to. When you are learning to use new technology understand that the individuals who are teaching you will often assume you know what a "CPU" is, they will expect that you know the difference between the "operating system" and an "application". Nurture an enthusiasm for this information...the better you understand the basic, the better you will feel about transitioning from one new technology to another.

Chapter 3: An Introduction to Administrative Applications of Computer Accounting

I think that the course jumps to this part of the book because this is the oldest application of computer technology in healthcare. Ever since even I was new in the field (that would be in 1983, over 30 years ago!) accounting and billing was done with the use of computers.

The use of computers in the medical field has simply expanded from this point outwards. It sort of makes sense, we have to get paid for what we do in the medical field so as computers became more involved in all aspects of medical practice, they all had to link back to these first applications!

This chapter is also a great introduction to the structure of billing, insurance companies, and coding...key components of medical practice that have been around for years!

How Tech-savvy are you?

One might assume that since you are taking an online class that you are comfortable with technology. In fact, many of you might assume this as well. I teach online a lot, and I have many students who will claim that they are very tech-savvy. They often cite the use of email, Facebook, and ordering concert tickets as proof!

But...each computer system is different. Each piece of technology has unique features. The true tech-savvy individuals is one who can adapt to different platforms, applications, and other technologies quickly and efficiently. The more different systems you work on the better!


In this section you will find any specific instructions or ideas I may have for you to support your graded work. Please read the instructions for each task in the course as well as the information I have here.

Discussion: Post your Introduction

In this discussion be sure to post your results from some of the fun quizzes for learning how tech-savvy you are. Include instances and stories as to times you have struggled with technology change. Those are always fun to talk about.

Also, don't be shy to talk about how you might have been around at the start of this whole revolution! I grew up with no cable TV and my typewriter (A Smith Corona that could actually memorize 10 pages and display them in little one-line window prior to typing was the most amazing thing!)

Wow! Don't you just want to go out and get one!

Discussion: Technology for Healthcare Professions

There is a strong argument that technology makes us more efficient. This, however, depends on how savvy we are at using the technology! How do you think technology may make you more efficient? How are you going to keep sharp on your skills?

I use a MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone to keep track of appointments, assignments, to-do lists (I have SEVERAL apps for that!) and to accomplish nearly every aspect of my work (and many of my hobbies).

Discussion: Future of Medicine

In this TED presentation (the video you are supposed to watch before you engage in this discussion) we see that the bridge between smart devices and an interconnected web of medical records is being built. We already have applications we can carry around with us that track our physiological state.

In addition to the three questions you are asked to consider in your response...what ethical issues do you think arise from this new technology? Can our personal health statistics be tracked and sold so that vitamin and exercise companies can target us? Would this be a good think by keeping USELESS ads out of my in-box and just present me with ads for products I might actually consider?

Assignment: Final Project Topic Selection

I like how this class gets you thinking about your final project on the first day!! This, in fact, should be the first task you complete in this course! I will be making best effort to check the drop box every day to get these right back to you so you can begin working on your final project.


Now is the time to select a topic that you can really get into, one you are personally interested in. You also need to familiarize yourself with APA writing expectations and any other writing assistance you may need. If you are not a strong writer, you need to get that help now so that your final submission represents your best thoughts and is not diminished by poor writing.

My personal expertise is in technology and education...although I do have a lot of experience in medical and social work applications. Post any questions you might have for me in the "Ask Your Instructor" section of the course.

In the Guidance for Week 5 you will find my personal tips and resources for writing this paper...but this does not replace getting help if you do need help.