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that while you are working in your respective fields, the technology that you used to use at the beginning will become outdated and new technology will be introduced.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)

Technology and Healthcare

Keep in mind that the term "technology" refers not only to computers and applications, but to all of the different kinds of machines and techniques that are used in healthcare settings.

Technology in the healthcare setting involves a number of elements:

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Networking
  • Wireless

We will explore these different elements through this class, but for now, let's consider the following examples of how these elements have impacted healthcare.


Mickan, S., Atherton, H., Roberts, N.W., Heneghan, C., & Tilson, J.K. (2014). Use of handheld computers in clinical practice: A systematic review. BMC Medical Informatics & Decision Making. 14(56). http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6947/14/56.

Click HERE to view this article.

In this article we are shown that the use of handheld computers (PDAs) to 1. access information for clinical knowledge, 2. adherence to guidelines, and 3. decision making had an impact on healthcare provision.

The results of the study indicate that healthcare providers who used the devices had improved clinical knowledge, made safer prescribing decisions and adhered more closely to recommendations, and finally, made more appropriate diagnostic decisions than their peers who could access paper sources.


Wallace, S., Maxey, K., & Lyer, L.S. (2014). A multi-case investigation of electronic health record implementation in small- and medium-size physician practices. Journal of Information Technology Case and Application Research. 16. 27-48.

Click HERE to view this article.

Electronic health records are very important part of the emerging use of technology in healthcare. EHR is a large part of this class! While large health organizations have often had the resources to implement EHR, small- and medium-sized physician practices (SMPP) have lagged behind. Including these offices in the "loop" is vital for the success of EHR. This article explores the factors and challenges associated with the implementation of EHR in these practices. They found that with training and a "EHR Champion" within the practice, SMPP's can successfully implement EHR.


Kaluža, B., Cvetkovi?, B., Dovgan, E., Gjoreski, H., Gams, M. Luštrek, M., & Mirchevska, V. (2014). A Multi-Agent Care System to Support Independent Living. International Journal on Artificial Intelligence Tools. 23:01

Click HERE to view this article.

This article examines a system called "Confidence" that monitors elderly people living in their own homes and communicates emergencies to multiple agencies depending on the type of issue that has come up. The system can detect falls and other unusual behavior and networks with the appropriate services.


This resource is actually a PDF of a presentation made by Ali Youssef titled "Wi-fi Enabled Healthcare"

Click HERE to view the PDF.

This presentation discusses the importance of implementing a system wide wi-fi network for use by both the medical system and the public. Advantages to this in healthcare include:

  • Focus on mobility can help decrease re-admissions
  • Continuous and remote vital signs monitoring
  • More efficient communication with staff
  • Increased time at the bedside
  • Desired end result is less expensive care and improved clinical outcomes

But..will computers make healthcare more impersonal?

As we introduce more and more technology into the healthcare world, will the work of caring individuals be replaced by machines? Truth is, much of the research indicates that some technology allows healthcare providers to spend more time by the bedside and less time looking up data and information. Communication with consultants on a medical case is much faster as well.

As we move forward in this class I would like you to read the following article about the impact that healthcare technology has had on the healthcare world. This article is NOT one that feels IT has been a "good" thing...in fact, it questions the actual cost savings and expresses grave concerns about how policy makers are mandating tools rather than listening to patients. This is a very sobering article and a must-read if you are going into the healthcare field.

Manchikanti, L., Benyamin, R.M., Falco, F.J.E., & Hirsch, J.A. (2014). Metamorphosis of medicine in the United States: Is information technology a white knight or killer whale? Pain Physician. 17:E663-E670

Click HERE to view this article.


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

Reflect on why healthcare professionals need to remain current in technology...all kinds of technology.

  • How will this make you a more effective healthcare worker?
  • How will you remain current in technology?

Discussion: Wireless 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.