What Is Health Informatics?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 23, 2021 | Published January 3, 2020

Updated February 23, 2021

Published January 3, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Healthcare is a rapidly growing industry with several aspects and components. One of these components is health informatics, which is an important part of healthcare reform. Understanding healthcare informatics can help you determine whether a career in this area might align with your goals and skills.

In this article, we explain health informatics and how it pertains to the overall healthcare industry.

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What is health informatics?

Health informatics refers to the acquisition, retrieval, use and storage of information related to healthcare. Its purpose is to improve the collaboration between various providers of healthcare services. Since information is so vital to the overall care of a patient, having all information in one place that is accessible by all providers is a critical part of healthcare reform. This evolving specialty connects communication and technological advancements with healthcare needs to improve the safety and quality of care provided to patients.

Although health informatics shares some similarities with information technology (IT) in healthcare, the two differ in several key ways. Health informatics focuses on the science behind health IT, while healthcare IT providers resolve issues with existing technology, including computers and software. Unlike IT, health informatics applies different practices, theories and concepts to situations to improve outcomes. Those in this area of healthcare may also be involved in storing, collecting, analyzing and presenting health data in a format that allows for more effective delivery across a range of individuals involved in the care of a patient.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched an incentive program that focused on the adoption of electronic health records. This program spurred major growth in health informatics as providers looked for ways to implement systems that would allow for collaboration in patient care. Those working in health informatics may introduce and implement these types of systems in hospitals, medical clinics and healthcare systems across the globe.

Related: 12 Healthcare Jobs that Pay Well

How to learn health informatics

Since health informatics is such a fast-growing area of the healthcare industry, the need for qualified professionals continues to rise. If you have an interest in technology and how it applies to healthcare and overall patient care, a career in health informatics could be a good option for you. Follow these steps to learn health informatics and increase your chances of success:

  1. Pursue a degree. Most positions in the health informatics field will require at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Some colleges and universities are expanding their offerings to include a health informatics degree, although you can look into other options, such as information technology, IT management or computer science. If you prefer to take a clinical approach to the subject, you could earn a degree in nursing, although you will likely have to take additional courses related to the technology used in healthcare.

  2. Consider furthering your education. Think about going beyond a bachelor’s degree and pursuing a master’s degree in health informatics. Doing so can help you stand out among the applicants for positions in this industry, and help you gain a better understanding of the different technologies used to collect, analyze and store patient data.

  3. Network with your professors and peers. During your educational experience, it’s helpful to form connections and network with your fellow students and professors. They may help you find job opportunities with major healthcare systems or hospitals.

  4. Look for internships. Healthcare systems and hospitals often seek interns to manage some tasks associated with health informatics. While you’re in school, pursuing an internship with an established organization can help you get more hands-on experience in the field. You may also stay on with the organization after you complete your internship or establish connections with people that can help you further your career.

Related: 10 Tips to Help You Network Like a Pro

Careers in health informatics

The fast-growing field of health informatics includes several common positions:

  1. Health information and medical records technician

  2. Clinical data analyst

  3. Nurse Informaticist

  4. Director of clinical informatics

1. Health information and medical records technician

National Average Salary: $44,480 per year

Primary Duties: Health information and medical records technicians work closely with healthcare providers to manage medical records and ensure all information stored in a patient’s record is accurate and protected. Some positions may require an applicant to hold a degree in IT, although most of these positions are entry level. Duties include processing and maintaining the medical records and information provided by patients, doctors and other healthcare staff members. They may also assess health records, enter and analyze data and implement new health record systems.

2. Clinical data analyst

National Average Salary: $66,096 per year

Primary Duties: A clinical data analyst develops and managing databases for healthcare systems and organizations and reviewing data to make sure it is reliable and accurate. Additional duties include overseeing data management processes and staff members, working with research teams to ensure that all data is collected and recorded accurately, developing data testing systems, developing software programs, researching data analysis and management systems and updating and reporting relevant results.

3. Nurse informaticist

National Average Salary: $38.70 per hour

Primary Duties: Since the position of nurse informaticist is new, the duties can vary between jobs, based on the healthcare facility and the needs of the patients. Some of the most common duties include overseeing data integration, knowledge and information, assisting in the decision-making process regarding patient treatment options and outcomes, maintaining information technology systems and ensuring that all patient data is current and accessible to healthcare providers.

4. Director of clinical informatics

National Average Salary: $81,261 per year

Primary Duties: An executive-level manager may advance in their career and become a director of clinical informatics. This newer position is opening at healthcare facilities as they shift to electronic health records. The duties in this position may include addressing problems with an electronic records system, championing the system to providers, reviewing the latest technological advancements and recommending updates where needed, implementing streamlined processes for reporting and data collection and managing information housed within the system.

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