What Is Health Informatics?
Simply put, health informatics (HI) refers to the collection, classification, storage and retrieval of information relating to healthcare delivery. The word “informatics” was coined in the 1960s by early computer programmers to differentiate between computer science concerned with information storage and retrieval and computer science primarily related to algorithms and programming. Though HI may involve a bit of both, when used professionally, it generally refers to the former: the processes and digital architecture relating to the storage and retrieval of healthcare information for the optimization of care delivery.
Why Is Health Informatics Important?
As any data professional in healthcare will tell you, there’s a big difference between implementing a robust informatics program and simply hoarding data with no design for implementation of that data in care delivery. This latter kind of data accumulation and storage is characterized by conventional filing systems that organize paper documents, an organizational strategy that usually led to proprietary systems that prioritized fast access to key information. But these paper files could be unwieldy and difficult to standardize.
As digital storage became more prominent and accessible, the amount of data that could be stored within these systems also increased. With this increase comes the temptation to save absolutely everything, which leads to shoddy information storage with little hope of retrieving appropriate information at the right time. But with the passing of more stringent laws surrounding the storage and sharing of patient information, the need for a robust data system that makes data accessible in useful—and legally compliant ways—is more urgent than ever. It is the job of health informatics professionals to create the systems to house this information, and the techniques of retrieval that make sure that healthcare professionals have access to exactly what they need, when they need it.
Jobs in the Field of Health Informatics
A career in HI requires coordinating efficient data storage with federal regulations regarding healthcare information. Clerical knowledge is key, as is comfort with customer service. A strong background in technology, including coding and database skills, is an absolute requirement. Above all, the ability to critically evaluate systems for maximum efficiency is the central skill for this career track.
The health informatics industry is currently experiencing growth at well above the national average1 and, depending on your clinical experience and expertise, there are a number of jobs for which a master’s degree in health informatics is a real asset.
Here are three jobs to consider:
1. Informatics nurses connect clinical services to IT. They generally have a background in nursing, but they use this expertise to evaluate clinical environments to suggest applications to increase efficiency.
2. HI specialists/managers have less clinical expertise and are focused on IT systems, including implementation, training and the creating of documentation to support staff in properly utilizing data storage systems.
3. Clinical analysts create the systems used by health professionals to store data. They evaluate the needs of a given clinical environment and build digital architectures and workflows that balance efficiency and regulatory standards.
The Future of Health Informatics
As more clinicians become aware of the possibilities in HI, the field continues to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics believes the field of health information managers could grow by as much as 23 percent between 2012 and 2022.2 With growth faster than in most industries, as well as median salaries far above the national average, it is clear that pursuing a career in health informatics could pay off both now and well into the future.2
What skills will you bring to the field of HI? If you have the technical prowess and clinical insight to help innovate in healthcare, or are looking to develop those skills, consider your future with the online Master of Science in Health Informatics from Kent State University, and put yourself at the forefront of an emerging field.
- Retrieved on April 27, 2018, from www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm
- Retrieved on April 27, 2018, from careersinpublichealth.net/resources/masters-healthcare-informatics-salary-outlook