What is Health Informatics?

As technology advances, it transforms every part of our lives – and healthcare is no exception.

You may think about robotic arms performing surgeries or machines that collect and transmit vitals for remote monitoring when you think about how technology impacts healthcare, but the field of health informatics is improving healthcare through data.

According to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), health informatics utilizes technology to organize, analyze, manage and use information to provide better healthcare.

Starting in the 1940s in Europe, health informatics didn’t migrate to the U.S. until the mid-1970s. It is now recognized as a vital field in healthcare. Also called clinical informatics, the health informatics field has multiple applications:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Imaging informatics
  • Nursing informatics
  • Dental informatics
  • Pathology informatics
  • Consumer health informatics
  • Research informatics
  • Public health informatics

Real-life applications include providing patients with their own electronic access to medical records so they can feel empowered to be in control of their healthcare and increased coordination between dozens of healthcare providers in delivering comprehensive care to patients, according to HIT Consultant’s “6 Ways Health Informatics is Transforming Health Care.”

As health informatics impersonalizes patient care through data and information, it may lead to a decrease in potential bias that may affect how patients are treated. And the increased access to information eliminates expenses associated with repeat procedures.

Health informatics differs from health information technology (IT), even though the terms are closely related. Health informatics contributes to the health IT field, with its primary focus on data instead of technology, according to BioMed Central’s “A Stimulus to Define Informatics and Health Information Technology.” Health IT, on the other hand, encompasses all applications of computers and technology in a healthcare setting.

Career Outlook for Health Informatics

Healthcare comprises about 20% of the economy and all healthcare organizations will continue to have strong IT needs for a while, according to Frank Myeroff, president of Direct Consulting Associates, a health IT staffing firm.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found in its 2018 Leadership and Workforce Survey more vacant positions with vendors and consulting firms (69%) for health information and tech workers than in hospitals (34%), even though both types of organizations reported open positions.

Careers in the health informatics field may be available to those with associate, bachelor’s and advanced degrees. Potential career possibilities as registered health information technicians, medical transcriptionists or data entry specialists may be potential options with an associate degree, according to the American Health Information Management Association. With a bachelor’s degree, opportunities include registered health information administrators, informatics nurse specialists and system data analysts. Healthcare professionals with an advanced degree or certificate in biomedical or health informatics may consider opportunities as epidemiologists, statisticians and informaticists.

Additionally, the Health Information technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was enacted to promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology.

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