What Do Health Informatics Do?

August 18, 2021 | bestvalue

Are you interested in technology and want to merge it with your health care career or experience without working in a direct patient care role? Health informatics is the perfect career path for you. Health informatics is one of the popular programs in the field of Healthcare Management. Health or medical informatics is a field that includes all the aspects of the health care information system. It encompasses all means of analysis, understanding, and promoting the efficient organization and use of information in health care.

As it stands, having too much data might be worse than not having enough. That is especially when it comes to making strategic healthcare decisions. Therefore, there is a significant demand for healthcare informatics professionals. They are needed to gather and analyze large amounts of data into meaningful information. After all, many external forces and trends call for the application of informatics. These include containing the rising healthcare costs, expanding information exchange, and reduction in medical errors. It is a growing field with primary areas of specialization, including clinical informatics, nursing informatics, mental health informatics, primary care informatics, and more.

As a fairly new specialty in the health care sector, health informatics has transformed the field’s operations. To give you a better glimpse of health informatics, we will look at the following aspects:

  • The purpose of health informatics in healthcare
  • The career options in health informatics
  • Roles and Responsibilities in health informatics
  • Educational requirements for a career in health informatics

Purpose of Health Informatics in Health Care

Before we venture into the purpose of health informatics, we will first look at the definition of health informatics. We define health informatics in two ways:

  • As a science discipline concerned with the communication, information-processing, and cognitive tasks of healthcare education, practice, and research. It includes technology and information science to support these tasks.
  • An information science field concerned with managing every aspect of health data and information using computers and computer technology

Generally, health informatics can be described as the acquisition, storage, recovery, and use of healthcare information to allow better collaboration between patients and healthcare practitioners. They play a vital role in the push toward significant healthcare reform. We can also look at it as an evolving specialization that links communications, information technology, and healthcare to enhance patient care quality and safety.

What is a Health Informatics Specialist?

Health informatics specialists are not on the front lines of the healthcare sector. Typically, you cannot find them roaming the hospital halls or interacting with patients. However, as technology and computers become inescapable, they play essential roles in the medical care we all receive. Health informatics specialists develop the systems that all medical sectors of the field rely on to guide their efforts. That way, they can provide effective and top-notch quality medical care as efficiently as possible. Typically, health informatics specialists are tasked with analyzing healthcare data and optimizing the delivery of healthcare services.

Considering their critical role, health informatics specialists are supposed to be result-driven. This way, they can gather and evaluate data, develop effective information systems, and collaborate with other healthcare practitioners on targeted healthcare service improvements. They must also have the relevant qualifications and extensive experience in their fields.

How is Informatics Used in Healthcare?

Today’s medical practitioners have more technology at their disposal than any practitioners ever before. And as we might expect, it is considerably improving their services. One area where medical practitioners are putting technology to use is in informatics. Health informatics is one of the best health science degree programs. It is the management of health information to improve patient care.

But how does this happen? How are healthcare practitioners using informatics to improve their services? As it turns out, there are various primary ways that informatics is part of this valuable effort. They include:

  • Improved Documentation

Documentation has for a long time been considered a vital part of the healthcare profession. In the modern-day, it is essential to the delivery of top-quality care. Modern healthcare is driven by patient needs and histories. By documenting conditions and sharing the information electronically, healthcare providers not only more effectively manage care, but they also improve the quality of that care. By analyzing documentation of a patient’s medical condition, practitioners can make better decisions about how to best provide care and make changes where necessary.

  • Minimizing Medical Errors

Patient safety is the primary concern of every healthcare provider. Nurses are often at the forefront of ensuring that patients are kept safe from misdiagnoses or medication errors. Health informatics provides vital data that prevent such errors. Armed with data, practitioners can make efficient decisions that keep their patients safe. Better still, when it comes to transfers between various departments, information is less likely to fall between the cracks whenever electronic systems are used.

  • Reducing Costs

Healthcare is not just expensive but also wasteful. Half of the medical care expenditures are squandered on account of delays in care, repeat procedures, and expenses linked to traditional methods of sharing information and errors in care delivery. However, with electronic and connected systems in place, many of these costs are curbed. Health informatics improves communication, reduces errors, and drives efficiency. That is from lab results that reach their destination leading to timely delivery of care to minimal medical malpractice claims.

  • Enhancing Patient Participation

Informatics allows patients to have access to their health history and recommendations. They are empowered to take the right steps toward the ultimate health levels. They can educate themselves about their diagnoses while keeping a good track of symptoms and medications. Better still, informatics allows patients to interact with their nurses and doctors more easily. That helps to yield superb outcomes. Also, patients feel they are part of a healthcare team that values them.

  • Improving Coordination of Medical Care

Health care is getting more specialized by the day. That means that patients can receive care from different practitioners in one hospital visit. The increase in specialists calls for better coordination, and informatics provides a way forward. From therapists and pharmacists to nutritionists, patient have a lot of conversations regarding their health. And, unless the conversations occur in tandem with each other, problems might arise. Nursing informatics provides a way to coordinate the information and efforts for better outcomes and satisfaction with health care.

  • Improving Outcomes

The most significant way in which informatics is used in healthcare is by improving outcomes. Electronic medical records mean safer and superb quality care because coordinated teams provide better diagnoses and minimize the chance for errors. Nurses and doctors also increase efficiency, which frees up time to interact with patients. Better still, manual tasks and jobs are automated, saving money and time.

What Do Information Systems Do with Patient Data?

The healthcare industry relies on massive amounts of data to make informed decisions, especially about patient care, delivery of care, and handling multiple administrative tasks. Health information systems are invaluable tools that aid in ensuring a seamless patient experience. The field of health information management centers on an electronic system. The system acts as a portal where patient data is stored, retrieved, and shared.

Patients access the system to provide medical practitioners with relevant health information. Authorized medical practitioners can also send information to patients in care. The information systems facilitate the availability of essential information to ensure that the right information is transmitted. Also, it helps to ensure that the healthcare providers are updated when necessary. 

Career Options in Health Informatics

Before looking at health informatics career options, you must understand the difference between health informatics and health information. While the two fields might be a bit similar, they have some key differences. Health information focuses on managing daily activities and maintaining records. Candidates can enter the health information management field with an associate’s degree. Health informatics, on the other hand, looks beyond the collection and maintenance of data. A health informatics specialist is expected to uncover effective ways to deliver health care. 

Where Do Health Informatics Professionals Work?

Health informatics is one of the health-care administration degrees with a high number of job opportunities. Health informatics professionals work for hospitals providing technical support to the team, monitoring the hospital’s computer network security, providing analysis, and helping to create procedures and policies. You can also work in analytical positions for government agencies. The field is rapidly evolving and provides numerous positions in management and supervisory positions.

There are many superb careers in health informatics. The careers and health technology jobs often vary depending on the type of data utilized and the size of the employer. The careers in health informatics include:

  • Nursing Informatics

Nurses are always the backbone of the healthcare system. They provide healthcare to patients while still taking care of other administrative duties. Nursing requires extensive knowledge and a high level of skill. Nursing informatics professionals oversee the nursing staff and educate them on recording protocol and the significance of accuracy security. Nursing informatics specialists are in high demand and are one of the best careers in the field of health informatics.

  • Nutrition or Pharmacy Informatics

Nutrition or pharmacy informatics specialists collect and organize patients and prescription data. They help to make medication safer and more efficient. Nutrition informatics professionals use patient data to make informed decisions concerning nutritional needs, food allergies, and other essential information relating to nutrition.

  • Clinical Informatics Specialist

Clinical informaticists work in clinical settings. They handle a company’s medical data. They are responsible for collecting, managing, and organizing patients’ data while ensuring it is available to healthcare practitioners and patients. They can also be tasked with educating other clinical informaticists. That is in different ways to operate the systems while integrating information technology in the medical facility.

  • Electronic Medical Records Keeper

When we hear the term health informatics, we think of a combination of information technology and health data. Well, it is the job of an electronic record keeper to ensure that the data is entered into the health system. They also convert medical records into a digital format. Besides, they ensure that data is accurate and secure.

How Much Can You Make in the Health Informatics Field?

From the list of potential careers in health informatics, it is evident that there is a demand for highly-trained specialists. Due to the high demand but minimal supply, health informatics’ salaries tend to be higher than in other professionals. Within the field overall, the average salary tracks around $92,810. For more information on the salary, you may expect, lookup data in your geographic location. Also, check on what matches your desired or current education level.

Prerequisites to Working in Health Informatics

Educational requirements are unnegotiable when it comes to working in health informatics. The requirements can vary depending on the informatics position or the size of the company. Some may only require a high school diploma with technology, while others will require a bachelor’s or graduate degree in computer science or related fields.

You can prepare for a career in health informatics by pursuing an associate program. This way, you will gain the core administrative and information technology skills required to work as a records technician or medical assistant and pursue a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare field and, later, a graduate-level informatics degree.

Some of the skills that are important in health informatics include:

  • Problem Solving Skills

Working in a multidisciplinary environment means that you will be required to solve problems often. Developing mental flexibility to see different sides of a problem can also help students thrive in this career.

  • Communication Skills 

A health informaticist should have excellent communication skills to get across the ideas developed through problem-solving. A clear explanation of new procedures and processes is required to improve the environment for healthcare works.

  • Interpersonal Skills

Professionals in the health sector work in a team setting. The ability to interact effectively is key. 

Roles and Responsibilities in Health Informatics

If you are good at analyzing data, enjoy library work, and find satisfaction in keeping accurate records, health informatics is a good career choice. Take a look at the roles you can hold in the informatics field below:

  • Education and Training Roles

Education and training roles involve making sure that staff members are conversant with using the latest technology. Your role will be to ensure that the benefits that technology offers to healthcare are released.

  • Health Records and Patients Administration

In health records and patient administration, you will organize, store, and retrieve medical records. These are the records used in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. You are responsible for supporting the effective use of data, knowledge, technology, and information within an organization. This field includes health record assistant, medical summarizer, patient administrative team leader, waiting list coordinator, and health records manager.

  • Information Management Roles

This role involves the retrieval, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of health data and information. It enhances the planning, improvement, and delivery of top-quality patient care. You will also be tasked with encouraging evidence-based practice, measuring performance, and improving access to patient records. Some of the roles in information management include information analyst, information governance, clinical coding roles, clinical audit roles, and audit facilitator.

  • Project and Program Management

The health system is investing significantly in digitization. Health informatics projects are at the front line of continuously improving patient healthcare. Health informatics specialists work on various projects that enable staff to record, analyze, and extract data in the patients’ best interests. Many of the tasks in this sector involve the development of new information technology applications or systems. They include patient systems or records that support the integration of hospital or community services. You will ensure that all projects are delivered within cost, quality, and time constraints. 

How Health Informatics is Transforming Patient and Health Care

In modern medicine, some of the biggest challenges are related to improving health education and introducing digital elements to delivering healthcare services. Medical schools all over the world are struggling to provide superb knowledge to their students. Luckily, everything is becoming easier with the help of medical informatics. Hang on as we explore the ways health informatics benefits patients and health care.

  • Better and More Efficient Data Storage

For a long time, medical facilities have used traditional methods to store patient records. Reliance on paperwork is perhaps the biggest problem facing modern healthcare. That is because of challenges in accessibility, increased workload, and lack of updates. These are issues that health informatics solved easily. Using innovative solutions, both medical practitioners and patients can reach medical records even on short notice. Also, regardless of where they are stored in the system, they are safe from being damaged or lost.

  • Patient Education and Prevention

The second we hear about modernization in medicine, we quickly think about grand goals. These are eradicating AIDS, curing cancer, or becoming immortal. Unfortunately, we do not have the technology to solve such. However, with health informatics, we can get closer to that point through education and prevention. Medical practitioners can post informative blogs regularly and share their knowledge and interact with patients like never before. Think of it. If every patient takes better care of themselves, the average lifespan will significantly increase.

  • All-inclusive Maintenance of Electronic Patient Records

Electronic health record systems are the most advanced versions that make the management of patients’ records faster and easier. A summary of every patients’ medical history or condition is already in the system, resulting in accurate records in each transaction. It also fosters timely treatment because the system is swift in generating information.

  • Privacy

We cannot overlook patient privacy and data confidentiality. Using blockchain technology, healthcare providers are experimenting with better methods of data encryption. That means there will be zero data breaches and issues that concern compromised data. Whatever a doctor observes and records will be safe and out of the public eye. Patients will have more trust in their doctors and will not hesitate to provide vital information.

  • Consistent Monitoring of Serious Cases

The internet of things is the real game-changer in the field of medicine. It has shown a great potential to save lives and contribute to the community. Several methods have been developed to help practitioners connect medical devices for wireless monitoring. Instead of having patients come to the office for testing, doctors can now get data from patients wirelessly. Patients can get advice and information from their practitioners in real-time. With health informatics, patients will find it easier to take their health into their hands.

  • Improved Outcomes

One of how health informatics is benefiting healthcare is in improved outcomes. Electronic health records foster safer and higher quality care because coordinated teams can provide accurate diagnosis and treatment. With the increased efficiency, doctors and CNAs have time to interact with their patients. Manual jobs are automated, thus saving money and time.

On a typical day, a health informatics specialist analyzes data from information systems to improve healthcare services. That means that they regularly have telephone communications, work as a team, have group discussions, and talk to patients almost every day. 

Educational Requirements for a Career in Health Informatics

Health informatics is essential in efforts to advance healthcare services all over the world. To take advantage of the various openings offered by this field, you should be able to access relevant medical data and be comfortable with its application. Therefore, education and training are valuable investments.

Degrees Needed for a Career in Health Informatics

Career opportunities for health informatics specialists have skyrocketed in recent years, making many students wonder what degree is needed to work in this hot cake field. Health informatics involves the collection, storage, and retrieval of medical information. Analyzing this data aims to improve the quality of medical care. It is a combination of information technology, healthcare, and communication. The aging population, availability of healthcare to more individuals, and use of electronic medical records have put a demand on qualified health informatics specialists, who are available at every degree level.

  • Associated Degree

Students can earn a health informatics associate’s degree in two years of full-time study. Students that enroll in the online study might be ready to join the workforce in less time. Some jobs available at this level include health information technician, cancer registrar, medical biller, and coder.

  • Bachelor’s Degree

Full-time students can earn a health informatics bachelor’s degree within four years. They take major-related courses, lab studies, general education, and clinical internships. Some of the excellent jobs available at this level include healthcare informatics specialists and clinical informatics data analysts. Healthcare informatics specialists determine the technology used to meet healthcare goals and train other employees in that area. They are expected to see a growth of 14% by 2026. Clinical informatics data analysts are tasked with the collection, application, and storage of data. They also analyze healthcare data to affirm its accuracy.

  • Master’s Degree

Students interested in pursuing graduate degrees in health informatics should be ready to complete at least three more years in college. Once you graduate, you can work as a health informatics manager or as a nurse informatics specialist. As a healthcare informatics manager, you oversee the implementation and management of healthcare information systems. You assess the needs of a company, and determine if they are being met or if changes are needed. As a nurse informatics specialist, you will oversee the entire nursing department while still working with the IT and clinical departments. 

What Certifications Can You Get in Health Informatics?

“Do I need to be certified in health informatics?” Here is one of the most common questions students interested in health informatics ask. The answer varies depending on where you intend to work or where you are working and in which capacity. However, besides education qualifications, certification will help you stand out from the competition. First, let us go over the difference between certifications and a certificate.

  • Certification programs test the skills, knowledge, and abilities required to perform a particular job. Successfully passing a certification exam after the course proves the candidate’s professional competence.
  • In contrast, a certificate is a training or educational program used to teach learning objectives. It assesses whether the student achieved these objectives.

Some of the certifications needed in health informatics include:

  • Certified Associate in Health Information and Management Systems
  • Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems
  • American Health Information Management Association
  • Advanced Health Informatics Certification
  • American Medical Informatics Association

If you are contemplating advancing your career, earning these certifications can enhance your resume. They will demonstrate that you are qualified for top positions in the health informatics field. 

How to Get Started with a Career in Health Informatics

The key to becoming a health informatics expert is building a solid foundation of formal education and medical experience with an informatics concentration. To pursue this role, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing or other healthcare-related fields. Then you can pursue a graduate degree in health informatics or health administration. If you have no prior health care background, you should choose a college that offers accredited health informatics programs to students with no prior medical care experience.

In Summary

Is health informatics the right career for you? Undoubtedly, regardless of the state of the economy, there will always be a demand for qualified medical professionals in a wide range of positions. And with the adoption of digital-based operations and big data, there is a high demand for health informatics professionals. Health informatics is a sector still in its infancy. Because the field is beginning to take off, there are thousands of exciting opportunities out there. If you are interested in helping patients without being involved in direct healthcare, health informatics is the perfect career for you.

Health informatics is an ideal career path for candidates interested in roles that incorporate data and information technology. If you have clinical health, medical lab services, nursing, medical research, dentistry, or occupational therapy experience, pursuing a master’s degree in health informatics can do you a big favor. Do not get it twisted. Health informatics is not only for people who have already ventured into the healthcare industry. There are many colleges out here offering programs for candidates who have no prior healthcare experience.

Is health informatics a great career choice? Bottom line: Yes! There is a bright outlook for all careers in health informatics. The aging population that requires more medical attention and the widespread adoption of electronic medical records put the career outlook for health informatics higher than the median for all occupations. In the next few years, the demand for professionals in this field will likely grow by 14%. With demand in industries like government agencies, organizational leadership, data analytics, healthcare hospitals, and computer sciences.

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