Everyone knows what healthcare is, yet many are uncertain about what health informatics is, how it relates to healthcare, and why it is important. Health informatics is the practice of integrating information technology, computer science and healthcare sciences so that medical professionals can provide high-quality patient care. Although the term health informatics sounds like a new practice to many, it's actually been around for about three decades. The Affordable Care Act’s main goal was to improve healthcare through the use of technology, such as electronic health records (EHRs). There is so much that can be learned about health informatics.
What is Health Informatics?
Health informatics is very close to its name because it involves healthcare and information. Although it’s described in various ways, the best definition is healthcare + information technology = health informatics. When a patient sees a doctor, the patient’s information is entered into the computer system. When the appointment is finished, the physician or nurse enters the results of the exam on the system.
If the patient is referred to another doctor, the second doctor has to only look up the patient’s name and all pertinent medical information is there. With each treatment the patient receives, there is also a code that goes into the system to designate the cost. These codes come into play when the billing department sends out the bills. These are all examples of how health informatics works. Through the integration of computers, information technology and healthcare, all important information is accessible to physicians, allowing them to provide the best of care.
Under the Affordable Care Act, health informatics create and implement EHRs that help to organize, secure and maintain important medical information, such as confidential financial data, medical records and similar sensitive medical information. Their main purpose is to improve the quality of healthcare on three levels: economic, administrative and clinical.
Type of Careers in Health Informatics
Health informatics is a vast field that covers many areas within the healthcare system. Employees are found in all three of the levels mentioned above. Whether it’s an RN, a medical billing and coding specialist or a health administrator, the job is somewhat connected to health informatics. Individuals who want careers in healthcare but don’t wish to have contact with patients may work as nutrition informaticist, clinical informaticist, informatics specialist or nurse informaticist and many more. Other possible jobs in this field include:
• Electronic medical record keeper
• Healthcare IT project manager
• Chief medical information officer
• Health informatics consultant
• Clinical informatics data analyst
Education Programs in Health Informatics
Working in the field of health informatics offers various career opportunities, most of which require some type of education. For almost every career opportunity, there is an appropriate training program. Degree programs are available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. Health informatics programs can be found at colleges, universities and through distance learning. Some common programs might include:
• Associate of Science in health information technology
• Bachelor of Science in Health Studies: Health Informatics
• Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management
• Bachelor of Science in Health Information Administration
• Master of Science in Health Informatics and Information Management
Related Resource: The 25 Best Master's in Public Administration Online
Because health informatics is such a rapidly growing field, U.S. News & World Report predicts that graduates of health informatics programs will have a relatively short job search. With so many career opportunities available in health informatics, it can become a challenging and lucrative career.