MSc Genomic Medicine / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Health Informatics

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL67361
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes



Central to any efforts to build an efficient health care system, or in supporting evidence-based medicine, is the need to capture information around patient diagnosis and medical treatment. At the core of this activity is the development of electronic patient records.

 Good quality electronic patient records require us to have systematic and unambiguous tools for recording the health state of a patient, and the treatments they receive. This unit provides a basic introduction to the development and use of electronic patient records, their long history, and the challenges still to be overcome.

 Patient data is captured in many parts of the health service, in GP surgeries, in hospital labs, by different clinical teams. All this data needs to be brought together and shared - whether that be to build a record for a single patient, or provide an overview of activity across a region. This requires that data can be shared and integrated. However, the challenges in developing such systems are not purely technical. Issues around organizational and human factors are at least as difficult to develop effective solutions as developing an appropriate IT infrastructure.

 Indicative content:

Information Governance: data and information quality, security and confidentiality

  • GDPR
  • Codes of Practice
  • Dealing with requests for information about patients/clients
  • Information Commissioner,
  • Paper based vs electronic records;
  • Patient identifiable data and information,
  • Secondary uses of data,
  • Audit and research,
  • Caldicott Guardians
  • Consent
  • Smart cards/records access
  • The well informed patient, the expert patient,
  • Encryption (principles)
  • Safe havens
  • Relationship and differences between data and information
  • Qualities of good data
  • Information system risks to patient safety
  • Cost of data entry errors
  • Secure information exchange between professionals
  • Sharing and communication with patients and carers

· Uses of clinical and health data and information

  • Patient identifiable and non-patient identifiable data and information
  • Health research applications
  • Public health,
  • Service planning
  • Cross sector care,
  • Patient/client centred service,
  • Information flows between health and social care and public health, third sector and private sectors
  • Systematic approaches to improving patient care: secondary uses – SUS – QIPP and related initiatives
  • Patient focused systems vs speciality, disease or procedure focused systems
  • Big Data
  • Transparency
  • Information intermediaries
  • Clinical audit
  • Information for patient choice
  • Health Records
  • Paper vs electronic records
  • Patient held records
  • Structured and coded records - free text in records
  • Consent models
  • Confidentiality and security
  • Impact of patient access on professionals and relationships, behavioural issues
  • Record sharing – with patients and between professionals
  • Electronic Health Records
  • GP/primary care records
  • · The Language of Health: Clinical Coding and Terminology
  • Terminologies vs classifications.
  • Coding systems - nature, clinical applications, limitations
  • Accident and Emergency Coding Tables
  • International Classification of Diseases (ICD)
  • NHS dictionary of medicines and devices, OPCS Classification of Intervention



The aim of this unit is to introduce health informatics knowledge and understanding of the skills and tools needed by all professionals in modern healthcare systems to provide safe, secure high quality, effective patient centred services.

 By the end of the module students should have an understanding of electronic patient records, why they are so important, and also just why it is so difficult to do well. They should also have some appreciation of the governance and data security problems surrounding the capture, use and sharing of such data.


Teaching and learning methods

e-Learning preparation material will impart basic and core knowledge whilst the face-to-face lectures and open discussions will introduce concrete examples and encourage attendees to draw upon their own work and experience.  Group, problem based learning will show a deeper understanding of the area and encourage collaborative working. The F2F contact will be delivered in one week. 

Intellectual skills

  1. Critically evaluate current literature on electronic patient records
  2. Discuss and justify the legislation, regulatory guidance and national and local protocols relating to the security, confidentiality and appropriate sharing of patient information.
  3. Discuss the basis and application and evaluate the limitations of the different clinical coding systems in use, and the importance of high-quality coded clinical data in communication and to patient safety.
  4. Apply information governance and security guidelines to information collection and use in healthcare systems
  5. Explain the use of clinical terms in record keeping and the role of terming on reporting and analysis.
  6. Identify the range, purposes, benefits and potential risks of sharing, integrating and aggregating clinical data and information.
  7. Evaluate the purpose, structures, use and storage of health and care records.

Practical skills

  1. Elicit information and requirements from various stakeholders
  2. Apply theories and concepts to research driven case-studies and own work
  3. Effectively communicate the decision-making process and how the decision arose surrounding a health informatics problem

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  1. Self-direct their learning
  2. Reflect upon their learning
  3. Effectively work in an interdisciplinary team
  4. Communicate effectively both in written and verbal format to a range of stakeholders including the public.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Set exercise 20%

Feedback methods

We give written feedback to students on this unit.

Recommended reading

The reading for this unit will focus on: (1) journals including International Journal for Medical Informatics; Health Informatics journal; and Journal of Medical Internet Research; (2) NHS documentation including policy documents; guidelines and standard; and (3) research from The Kings Fund ( and Nuffield Trust ( 


Example texts include, but are not limited to:

In addition, introductory health informatics texts may also be referenced including, but not limited to:

  • Coiera, E (2015). Guide to Health Informatics. (3rd Edition) London: CRC Press
  • Shortcliffe, E. and Cimino, J Biomedical Informatics:Computer Applications in Healthcare and Biomedicine (Health Informatics). 3rd ed. London: Springer.
  • Taylor, P., From Patient Data to Medical Knowledge. 2006: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  • The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): A Practical Guide (Paperback). 2018: Springer.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Evangelos Kontopantelis Unit coordinator

Return to course details