What Is Health Informatics?

Health InformaticsThe intersection of health care and information technology, health informatics is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on the design, development, and use of information technology in the health care industry. With the increasing prevalence of electronic health records and other forms of technology in health care, opportunities for health informatics professionals are growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, the need for health informatics professionals is so immense that many new graduates in the field have job offers before they actually have their degrees, according to U.S. News and World Report.

What is Informatics?

Informatics is an interdisciplinary science that combines areas like computer science, information management, decision science and the biological sciences to improve care and find new technological solutions to the challenges faced in biomedical science. The American Medical Informatics Association explains that informatics can be used to develop new techniques in fields as diverse as human interface design, data mining, cognitive science, decision support, databases and algorithms. While informatics is a broad term that refers to the practice, research, and application of bioinformatics, clinical informatics and public health informatics, the term health informatics has a more narrow scope. Health informatics describes the practice and applied research of clinical and public health informatics.

What are the Types of Health Informatics?

According to the American Health Information Management Association, there are several types of health informatics. Applied informatics deals with the process, policy and technological details of how medical information is used in the technological sphere. Public health informatics involves the collection, study and analysis of public health information with the goal of spotting trends, planning beneficial interventions and maximizing efficient health care delivery. Nursing informatics is a clinical nursing and research-based field, much like medical informatics relies on the clinical and research experience of doctors.

What Does a Health Informatics Degree Program Typically Include?

Aspiring health informatics professionals will find a broad array of degree programs available that result in associates, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. These programs typically cover topics like computer technology, programming, medical terminology, information management, health information management, and the legal and ethical issues that apply in the health care field. The more advanced the degree, the more depth and breadth the program offers. Several colleges offer health informatics programs resulting in associates degrees that qualify their holders for entry-level informatics positions. Bachelor’s degree programs are a good fit for students who plan on careers in health informatics. Master’s degrees programs offer more opportunities and can be an excellent way for someone already trained in health care or information technology to shift to a new career. The American Medical Informatics Association, the American Health Information Management Association and the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education all offer more information about quality health informatics degree programs.

What Jobs are Available for Health Informatics Professionals?

Entry-level positions in the health informatics field often deal with inputting and maintaining electronic health records. More advanced positions require professionals who can develop and monitor the networks and databases where these records are maintained, analyze the information available in these records to improve future planning and increase the efficiency of healthcare delivery, ensure the security of health information, and design and develop the applications and software needed to store, transmit and use health records. More advanced health informatics positions include health informatics consultant, health informatics director and chief medical information officer.

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As the demand for health care surges, the industry is increasingly seeking more effective ways to deliver the best possible care to the population, creating new opportunities for people ready to tackle that challenge. For individuals searching for a career that combines technology and health care, health informatics may be the answer.