Health Informatics (HI)—or Health Information Systems—is an increasingly popular interdisciplinary field focused on implementing and improving technological resources and management techniques within healthcare.
The field merges computer science, information technology, and healthcare into a single discipline. Health informatics specialists work to collect, store, analyze, and leverage patient data to improve the delivery of healthcare services and other processes within healthcare settings.
If you find yourself interested in the intersection of healthcare and computer science, health informatics may be just the career choice for you. Below, we look at some of the factors that make HI an appealing career and outline the key steps to making it a reality.
Is Health Informatics a Good Career Choice?
The answer to this question will ultimately depend on your own personal and professional interests. That being said, many people find health informatics to be an appealing career because it offers a variety of career options, promises significant job growth and stability, and lets professionals make a lasting impact in others’ lives.
Advance Your Career in an Emerging Field
Learn how health informatics graduates use information technology to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes.
1. Career Opportunities
As a relatively young but growing field, there are many career opportunities within health informatics. Specific careers vary depending on the size of an organization and the type of health data collected. Among the most common titles are:
- Health Informatics Specialist: These professionals work with patient records and data in a healthcare setting such as hospitals. They can perform a range of duties, including analytical, project management, consulting, or support capacities.
- Clinical Informatics Analyst: A clinical informatics specialist is typically responsible for organizing and maintaining patient data and ensuring it’s available to health care providers, staff, and patients. They receive feedback and requests from users, educate them on how to use the healthcare systems and processes, and work with them to optimize workflow processes and information technology (IT).
- Electronic Medical Records Keeper: Electronics medical records keepers input and secure pertinent patient data such as symptoms, conditions, diagnoses, and treatments into a healthcare facility’s EHR program or various databases used by insurance companies and other organizations that handle patient information. They are responsible for ensuring the medical information is accurate and safe (and complies with HIPPA, for example,) by assigning codes to patient data within the records system; consulting with physicians and nurses; researching, collecting, and maintaining medical information; and, finally, dispersing the information to those eligible to see it.
- Nursing Informatics Specialist: Nurse informatics specialists are qualified nurses who oversee and educate the nursing staff on record-keeping protocol, data accuracy, and healthcare information systems security. As a nurse informatics specialist, you’ll also manage logistics and workflows between those using technology and those providing direct patient care, improving patient outcomes, and ensuring the general information security of the healthcare facility in which you work.
- Pharmacy or Nutrition Informaticist: These professionals play an essential role in pharmacy settings by monitoring patient records for potential drug interactions and general safety.
- Chief Medical Information Officer: Chief medical information officers are responsible for ensuring information and architecture of IT systems are efficient and support high-quality patient care. To accomplish this, they conduct data analytics on the systems’ infrastructure, work with IT governance boards, design and purchase software applications, and make sure their teams are working effectively.
Of course, there are many other roles within the industry. For example, health informatics consultants will often work in a self-employed capacity for various clients. In contrast, EHR implementation managers and health IT project managers will often work on a contract or project basis.
2. Job Outlook
There is a growing demand for health informatics professionals, especially as laws and society demand the digitization and accessibility of information.
“As the amount of information and data and tools to collect, analyze, access, and use that data become broader and broader, there is a need for more and more people to manage it,” says Jay Spitulnik, associate teaching professor and director of Health Informatics Program at Northeastern University.
According to Spitulnik, while there is continued growth on the client-provider side, the most significant recent growth in this field has been on the vendor side.
“Now that the providers are getting themselves up to speed, you’ve got all the vendors—device manufacturers, pharma companies, software developers—beginning to need people with these skill sets in their organizations as well.”
3. Interesting and Impactful Work
Becoming a health informatics professional is a unique and impactful career path, thanks to its interdisciplinary nature that combines the benefits of working in healthcare and using technology to improve and create positive change in patient lives.
Many professionals in this area have the opportunity to reform and shape nationwide processes, organizations, healthcare—all while becoming a trailblazer in the field.
Is health informatics right for you?
Health informatics is a solid career choice if:
- You are looking to help patients without providing direct care and are interested in data and IT.
- You’re interested in being a nurse who also impacts the technological infrastructure of healthcare.
- You are curious about IT systems and research but want to join a growing, impactful industry.
Health informatics is a booming industry that will provide you with many opportunities and a gratifying career that impacts all aspects of healthcare, ranging from systems to patient lives. To succeed in this industry, you’ll need strong interpersonal, analytical, and research skills, programming and technology knowledge, and be a problem-solver who’s intellectually curious about improving systems.
To pursue a career in the field, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve completed the proper education and training. Though in the past it may have been possible to break into health informatics with only an undergraduate degree, many employers now only consider applicants who have completed a graduate education. Completing a degree like a Master of Science in Health Informatics is an excellent means of turbo-charging your career.