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New health care data analytics and management programs coming to Saint Mary’s University

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SMU creating new health data training program
WATCH: Saint Mary’s University will be receiving $25 million from the Nova Scotia government to create new health care data analytics and management programming. As Callum Smith reports, the province’s Minister of Advanced Education says the money will help save lives. – Mar 8, 2023

The Nova Scotia Government announced $25-million for Saint Mary’s University Wednesday to create a health care data analytics diploma program.

Funding will also be used to provide a “business administration program for health-care administrators, office directors and family doctors,” as well as expanding the university’s partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College to offer more combined education.

“Today’s announcement marks the largest single government investment ever made in the history of Saint Mary’s,” Madine VanderPlaat, the university’s interim vice-president of academics and research, told the crowd.

Read more: Premier tells party at AGM fixing health care in N.S. an ‘urgent’ priority

Brian Wong, the province’s advanced education minister, told students and faculty the programming will go a long way.

“Your graduates are going to help save lives,” he said. “Your graduates are going to help health care workers and leaders make life-saving decisions through using data.”

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“We need to come into the modern era as far as data and health care,” he told reporters after the announcement. “We’ve done it in other sectors many years ago and it’s time that we do it.”

Doctors Nova Scotia says physicians in the province collectively spend 1.36 million hours a year on administrative tasks. About 500,000 hours is considered “unnecessary administrative burden.”

Dr. Leisha Hawker, the organization’s president, tells Global News announcements such as today’s and the previously-announced One Patient One Record plan will help make the system operate more efficiently.

“A lot of Nova Scotians might not understand immediately how this could directly impact their patient care,” Hawker says. “But these kinds of investments are really important. They can improve the health system infrastructure and also improve the environment for those working in the health care system which can help with recruitment and retention and have a direct impact on patient care.”

Read more: Nova Scotia to invest $59 million for new medical school at Cape Breton University

It’s not yet known when the programs would begin or how many students will graduate. VanderPlaat said the announcement came “suddenly” so faculty will have to determine details of the programming.

“We have always had a wish list of things that we’d like to develop here at Saint Mary’s, and this was one of the things on that wish list,” she told reporters.

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On Tuesday, Premier Tim Houston detailed the province’s $59.8-million funding commitment to Cape Breton University’s new medical school. He also highlighted One Patient One Record, which was a $365-million initiative announced Feb. 1 to streamline access to health data through electronic means.

He says that initiative is “long overdue.”

“It will change health care,” he said Tuesday. “We’re investing in technology.

Thursday will mark the third consecutive day of a health care announcement at a Nova Scotia university, when Houston and Health Minister Michelle Thompson are expected to announce funding for health care innovation at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish.

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