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Fri 25 August 2017

MHI 408-DL: System Acquisition and Lifecycle

Posted by Aly Sivji in Thoughts   

As part of my degree requirements, I enrolled in Information System Acquisition and Lifecycle with Dr. Ray Robinson (TA: Eric Abbott) for the Summer 2017 quarter.

The course name didn't have me expecting much. I thought I'd put off learning the material until the absolute last moment, procrastating with Python side projects along the way. But that wasn't the case. At all.

Somehow, through sheer will (and outstanding course design), Dr. Robinson created a class that has been the most engaging and applicable experience of my grad school career.

Course Description

MHI 408:

A practical course on acquiring and assessing new medical technology, either as a vendor who needs to know how to meet the expectations of customers and their acquisition requirements or as a customer/practitioner who must know how to validate technology selections and implementations. Topics include cost analysis and justification, economic models, capital purchase, leasing strategies, the application service provider or risk-sharing model, purchase agreements and contracts, writing a RFP, analyzing a RFP response, and industry business trends.


There are weekly readings and "lectures". Lectures are mostly PowerPoint slides you can go over at your convenience. Not a lot of formal instruction. You would think the tuition I pay would bring more to the table, but it didn't take away from the course.

All of Northwestern's MHI classes have discussion boards where students interact and learn in a collabrative environment. This quarter's discussion topics ranged from sharing experiences of being on an acquisition team to debating the merits of different open source licenses. This was right around the time Apache banned the use of BSD+patent libraries; I had a lot of fun researching and ranting about React.

The first two weeks of class were hectic with two assignments due right away. Week 2's assignment was long (18-20 hours) and there wasn't much direction from the professor. The topic was to write a Statement of Work and it felt like a consulting engagement. Client expects something at the end of the weekend, you're not quite sure what. Make your best effort to get them what they expect. Seemed to work well enough.

Courseload lightened up over the next few weeks as we were place into groups for the remaining assignments. Group work is group work. My group was great, so no compliants from me.

The course built up to a mock negotiation held in the final week of the quarter. Students played the part of either vendor or customer, and negotiated the acquisition of an EHR for a 30 office physician group. This was a lot of fun and helped to reinforce the main themes of the course. Anytown Community Physicians, you may be gone, but you are not forgetten

Assigned Books

Getting Past No

Like every great business book, it is just common sense written down. In Getting Past No, Ury explores the art of joint problem solving. One of the most practical books I've read; kept thinking of ways that I should play situations to get what I want at work. This book will be on my shelf for years to come.

Software Agreements Line by Line

Dry. Don't think there are too many books in this space. Does the job.

Rando Journal Articles

No real standout.


Ray is Awesome. Eric is great.

They made sure to incorporate the latest and greatest in HealthIT throughout the class. Eric gave a presentation on Blockchain and its Applications in Healthcare. Definitely something I need to explore in the coming months.

Final Thoughts

Lots of practical knowledge in this course. How to work on an acquisition team, write an RFP, evaluate proposals, negotiate a contract, etc.

I gave it 6/6 on CTEC.

Related terms: Masters in Medical Informatics, MMI, Masters in Healthcare Informatics, MHI, Northwestern, Healthcare Information Technology, HealthIT, HIT