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Health Informatics vs Nursing Informatics

October 21, 2019

Health informatics and nursing informatics utilize technology and data to create change that may lead to more efficient delivery of care, better patient care, improved health outcomes and lower costs. Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) and Master of Science in Nursing with an Informatics Specialization (MSN Informatics) each teach students to gather, maintain, save, translate and distribute patient information and other healthcare data. With these similar aims, it can be easy to confuse the two practices. While there is opportunity for overlap in subject matter and career outcomes for MSHI and MSN Informatics graduates, there are many differences between these two degrees. We’ll explore each career and graduate program, but keep in mind, the main difference between health informatics and nursing informatics is how the data is used in healthcare.

Different Focuses

By definition, health informatics, also known as healthcare informatics, is “the integration of health-care sciences, computer science, information science, and cognitive science to assist in the management of healthcare information.”1 Broadly, health informatics is a term that includes many roles, careers and aspects of data usage to improve healthcare. An MSHI graduate would primarily be concerned with utilizing data to improve operations and methods on the managerial and organizational side of healthcare.

Nursing informatics is a “specialty that integrates nursing, science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, and knowledge in nursing practice.”2 The main focus of an MSN Informatics graduate is to utilize technology to enhance patient care and elevate nursing practices. Nursing informatics broadly covers the ways nurses use technology in the daily routines. The goal of nursing informatics is to utilize the latest technological advances available in order to provide outstanding patient care in the most efficient way possible and deliver more favorable outcomes through prevention, treatment and lifestyle change recommendations.

Generally speaking, a student who is considering pursuing an MSHI is usually interested in joining or advancing within the health IT profession, as opposed to directly providing care to patients. On the other hand, the MSHI track could be a favorable option for registered nurses (RNs) who are looking to step away from the patient facing side of healthcare and enter a career focused on data analysis in healthcare instead.

Different Responsibilities

As health informatics professionals are focused on implementing technological advances for administration purposes, and nursing informatics professionals use those advances in order to improve patient outcomes, the general responsibilities of each field are quite different.

MSHI Professionals:3

  • Maintain, translate and communicate new data to improve patient outcomes
  • Use electronic health records (EHRs) and need to understand how they affect departmental, operational and staffing needs
  • Establish data compliance and enact meaningful use initiatives
  • Help with education staff to create training programs for employees when new EHR systems need to be implemented
  • Create and maintain medical databases, computer networks, and internet or multimedia applications
  • Design and organize protocols based on evidence
  • Create terminology, standards, and organizational systems

MSN Informatics Professionals:4

  • Maintain, translate and communicate new data to improve clinical practices
  • Create more efficient clinical systems to determine where gaps in the healthcare delivery system are and develop methods to address them
  • Reinforce continuity and quality of care across caregivers in a hospital
  • Help with staff training programs with EHR systems
  • Manage projects
  • Implement and track the success of quality initiatives
  • Analyze and track clinical statistics to improve systems
  • Optimize system performance

Different Career Paths

Given that those who earn an MSN Informatics already have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and are likely working with patients as an RN, their career paths look much different than that of an MSHI graduate.

MSHI Professionals:3

  • Chief clinical informatics officer
  • Chief medical information officer
  • Health informatics director
  • Director of clinical informatics
  • Healthcare consultant
  • Clinical manager
  • IT project manager
  • Electronic medical record keeper
  • Systems/data analyst
  • Medical scribe
  • Coding auditor

MSN Informatics Professionals:4

  • Chief nursing informatics officer
  • Director of EHR support
  • Nursing informatics specialist
  • Informatics optimization specialist
  • Clinical informatics specialist
  • Clinical workflow analyst
  • Informatics coordinator
  • EHR informatics liaison
  • Consultant

Deciding if an MSHI or MSN Informatics is the right degree for you depends largely on where you are in your career and what your long-term goals are. Whether you’re a nurse who’s looking to step away from the patient facing side of healthcare, or you’re a technology specialist looking to break into the healthcare industry, consider how an online Master of Science in Health Informatics or a Postbaccalaureate Certificate from Kent State University can help you lead conversations about the way technology and healthcare intersect, and how we can improve systems to truly benefit patients.

  1. Retrieved on September 11, 2019, from Saba & McCormick, 2015, Pg. 232
  2. Retrieved on September 11, 2019, from American Nurse’s Association, 2001, Pg. 17
  3. Retrieved on September 11, 2019, from https://www.himss.org/library/healthcare-informatics
  4. Retrieved on September 11, 2019, from s3.amazonaws.com/rdcms-himss/files/production/public/HIMSSorg/Content/files/jhim/21-1/04_column_NursInform.pdf