DALLAS TWP., Pa. – The College of Health Sciences and Education at Misericordia University is introducing in the fall the region’s first graduate program that works to improve health care quality and patient safety.

The Healthcare Analytics is a 36-credit Master of Science degree program available fully online beginning in August. The new academic program prepares creative and diligent professionals who use data to communicate and enact meaningful improvements in the delivery of health care.

“The need to assure that professionals in health care are well versed in improvement is compelling,’’ said George A. Godlewski, Ph.D., M.S.W., director of the Healthcare Analytics graduate program at Misericordia University. “The industry’s growth underscores that imperative while providing opportunities to enhance the learning of new professionals in the area of health care quality improvement.’’

The graduate program places a unique emphasis on interprofessional practice and patient-family perspectives. In doing so, it stresses the importance of health care professionals working together as equal team members with one common goal, while ensuring patient’s and family’s voices are heard throughout the continuum of care.

Curriculum is composed of required courses as well as electives to support student goals and interests of improving care throughout health care systems. The framework of the curriculum is based on quality improvement competencies in health care quality: data sets, measurement, analysis, improvement science, change management, leadership and more. Course content will also stress themes of population health, ethics, social justice, leadership, patient experience, interprofessionalism and creativity.

Misericordia will deliver the courses primarily in a seven-week block schedule via an asynchronous on-line format to support the flexibility required by adult learners. Students can work toward the advanced degree in full- or part-time formats, and can earn their master’s degree in as little as two years.

In addition, an 18-credit post baccalaureate certificate is available in the Healthcare Analytics program. Students also can apply the credits earned through completion of the certificate program to the requirements for the master’s degree.

Today, medical error is the third highest cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer. Furthermore, medical errors cost the nation’s health care system about $17 billion annually, according to research in the 2018 British Medical Journal. The Journal of Health Care Finance in 2012 estimated health care costs associated with medical mistakes that negatively affected quality-adjusted life years exceeded $200 billion annually.

The British Medical Journal’s March 2018 report comes more than two decades after the Institute of Medicine’s study, “To Err is Human,’’ illustrated the totality of preventable medical errors in U.S. hospitals.

“In short, skillful professionals are needed to lead change and improvement in health care beyond the current model being used in the U.S. health care system,’’ Dr. Godlewski said. “Our health care system, including health care policy, requires significant changes to address current gaps in quality. The potential revenue savings associated with improved quality in health care could be applied to innumerable worthy challenges. The personal benefits of improved care and reduced harm are incalculable.’’

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts the demand for data analysts in health care to grow about 19 percent through 2024. Overall, BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook expects employment in the health care industry to grow by 18 percent over the next two decades, with about 50 percent of the top 25 jobs associated with clinical care.

For more information about the graduate and certificate programs in Healthcare Analytics at Misericordia University, please call 570-674-6233 or visit www.misericordia.edu/ healthcareanalytics. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, Misericordia University is Luzerne County’s first four-year college and offers 56 academic programs on the graduate and undergraduate levels in full- and part-time formats. Misericordia University ranks in the top tier of the Best Regional Universities – North category of U.S. News and World Report’s 2019 edition of Best Colleges. The Princeton Review recognizes MU as a 2019 Best Northeastern College and Money Magazine includes Misericordia in its 2018-19 “Best Colleges” list.