Capstone FAQ

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the capstone project for the online MS in Health Informatics & Analytics (MHIA) program at Tufts University School of Medicine.

When should I start looking for a site for my capstone project?
Begin looking as soon as you feel you have a reasonable understanding of the kind of experience you want from your capstone. You may complete your capstone at a health plan provider, healthcare provider organization, government health department, pharmaceutical company, or at your workplace. You can always ask for assistance from our Career Services team, faculty members, or the capstone course instructor.

Do I have to find a capstone site on my own?
You will lead the search for your capstone site with support from Tufts University Career Services. The Career Services team will provide contact information for organizations that are open to hosting potential projects, but you are not limited to this list. Handshake, the Tufts career management tool that creates an online community with employers, gives you the ability to search for other possibilities. You may target any capstone host site that meets the academic requirements for a capstone.

Career Services also provides training and resources on how to approach a potential host organization as well as best practices to move the discussion from potential interest to capstone placement.

Is there someone I can talk to about finding a capstone site?
Initially you can contact the program director, associate program director, or capstone course director regarding questions or concerns about finding a site for your capstone experience. Career Services and the capstone course director will provide additional resources to help you find a site and preceptor.

What are the steps in choosing a site and project?
The process may vary by student, so it is recommended that you speak to your faculty adviser or the capstone course director early in the process to ensure you are taking the right steps. Here is a general outline to follow when choosing a site and project.

  1. Choose the type of organization you would like to work with (hospital, clinic, public health services organization).
  2. Identify the skills you would like to use or develop during the capstone (planning, data design, data collection and/or management, data analytics).
  3. Identify potential host institutions and preceptors on the site.
  4. Identify a faculty mentor or adviser for the project.
  5. Attend the Capstone Planning Immersion weekend.
  6. Develop a capstone proposal and project plan.

What makes for a good capstone site?
A good capstone site should meet the following criteria:

  • It is a healthcare/life sciences organization (e.g., health plan payer, provider organization, pharmaceutical company, etc.).
  • Data collection, management, and analyses are core to the business practice.
  • There are opportunities for on-site or remote work for a minimum of four to eight hours per week.
  • The site provides a professional environment and opportunities for students to be engaged as part of a team.
  • The preceptor and organization have time and a relevant project for a Health Informatics & Analytics student.
  • The site can facilitate a capstone experience by identifying a problem that needs to be addressed or a system that needs improvement.
  • The organization has identified a project that makes use of informatics or analytics skills.

What makes for a good capstone project?
Your capstone project should meet the following criteria:

  • Benefit an organization, agency, program, or population (not an individual).
  • Result in a useful deliverable for the host organization.
  • Be realistic and achievable in a three-month, 140-hour time period.
  • Give you an opportunity to apply concepts and skills gained from the MS in Health Informatics & Analytics program.

What are some examples of organizations or agencies that would benefit from a health informatics/health analytics project?

  • acute care hospitals
  • ambulatory clinics
  • ambulatory surgery centers
  • behavioral health facilities
  • chiropractors
  • compliance organizations
  • consulting agencies
  • data analytics organizations
  • dental offices
  • dialysis centers
  • disease specialty centers
  • governmental agencies
  • health departments
  • health information exchanges
  • healthcare software companies
  • health information management (HIM) service providers
  • home health agencies
  • hospice care centers
  • hospital associations
  • hospitals
  • information technology departments
  • health insurance agencies
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • other academic organizations or research centers

I have found a capstone site; now what do I do?
Conceptualize your project with your site preceptor by providing an overview of the project and its scope. Then complete the Capstone Proposal Form and submit it for approval. If you need additional guidance, you can reach out to the capstone course director.

What kind of time commitment does the capstone project require?
You will be supervised by an employee of the organization (the preceptor), who will meet with you at least once a week. In addition, you should expect to designate time each week to fulfill your capstone requirements, which include conducting literature reviews; working with data systems; and developing presentations, papers, and publications as required by the host organization. You should approach the capstone experience as you would any other course in the program and manage your time accordingly.

How much time should I expect to spend on the Capstone Practicum course?
You will spend approximately 140 to 160 hours total. There is no specific requirement for weekly number of hours. You will create your schedule with your preceptor to ensure completion of capstone hours and responsibilities. We are unable to arrange for capstone schedules that are exclusively during evening/weekend hours. Absences from your responsibilities can disrupt the schedule and ultimately impact your ability to complete requirements on time.

What deliverables are expected as part of the capstone?
You will provide the following elements:

  • capstone proposal
  • project plan
  • deliverables for the organization including reports and papers
  • reflection paper
  • oral presentation
  • final capstone report

Can I do my project remotely?
Yes, although you would need to obtain the approval of the capstone course director to ensure that you make full use of the capstone experience.

Can I do my Capstone Practicum at my current place of employment?
Yes, but it should be in a different department and under a different supervisor or manager. The purpose of the capstone is for you to experience a new learning environment and use the skills and knowledge you have gained from the program.