Health informatics, also known as healthcare information technology, is the communication technology for medical information in the healthcare industry.
Before health informatics existed, medical professionals charted medical information on paper and stored records in an office file cabinet. This often made it more challenging to share a patient’s medical records with other providers, caused miscommunication and increased medication errors. Now, health informatics is making communication among medical professionals much simpler and more effective.
This new health information technology has also created many new career opportunities for those who want to work in the tech side of healthcare. As medical information technologies advance, careers in healthcare informatics will continue to grow. But what you may not know, is what exactly you can do in the field of health informatics. Read on to find out what jobs you can get with a health informatics degree and whether or not it's the right path for you.
Part One What Do Health Informaticists Do?
A health informaticist is an expert in organizing, storing and communicating a large amount of health data for a healthcare system. Their goal is to utilize quickly evolving technology to maximize the standard of medical care.
Some of the tasks of health informaticists include:
- Finding ways to save money, improve patient health, and create solutions through analyzing health data.
- Designing tools via technology to measure patient data, analyze processes, and measure the effectiveness of data communication.
- Working with IT departments to ensure quality communication.
Part Two Why is Health Informatics Important?
Advancements in technology have allowed health informatics to be widely used across the patient care community to improve patient outcomes by having the ability to:
- Allow medical professionals to quickly retrieve and analyze medical data (such as patient assessments, vital signs, health history, diagnostic testing results, or any other pertinent medical information).
- Allow companies, hospitals, and other medical facilities to communicate information between facilities.
- Keep patient information private and secure.
- Organize patient health records concisely to easily be shared and accessed by other health providers caring for that patient.
- Help develop more effective policies and procedures in medical care.
- Identify areas needed for more training and spot ways to give better patient care.
- Eliminate medical and medication errors.
- Improve patient care outcomes through consistent and more accurate data.
Part Three Who is a Health Informatics Career Right For?
Health informatics is an excellent career for people working in healthcare who desire to work in technology or those who want to help patients without working in direct patient care.
Most health informaticists have some background in healthcare. It helps to understand how providers gather and store information.
Part Four How Do You Start a Career in Health Informatics?
Most health informatics positions require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in health informatics or another healthcare-related degree. However, many employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree.
Many health informaticists started their careers as healthcare providers, such as nurses, before advancing into the role. By doing this, they became first-hand experts in how patient records are stored and shared electronically. This allowed them to see more big-picture technology goals to find practical solutions for healthcare communication.
Part Five Health Informatics Degrees
When you’re considering getting into the health informatics field, you have a few different degree options available to choose from. Here’s what you need to know about each of them:
Masters of Science in Health Informatics
A master of science in health informatics is an ideal route for someone who already has a bachelor’s degree in a related science field or has experience working in a patient care role as a medical professional.
Many employers prefer a higher degree, and having more education will give you an edge over your competition during interviews.
Programs vary depending on the university. However, most require:
- A bachelor’s degree (preferably in a medical-related or computer science field) with a 3.0 or higher
- Some programs require on-the-job experiences in the healthcare field, such as hospitals or healthcare administration
- Letters of recommendation
Bachelor's Degree in Health Informatics
A bachelor’s degree in health informatics is a four-year undergraduate degree and might be an ideal route for someone who does not have a bachelor’s degree but wants to work in the health and technology field.
It might also make sense for someone who has a bachelor’s degree in a non-science or technology-related area or does not have experience working in the healthcare field. Unfortunately, there are no accelerated programs for individuals interested in health informatics that already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. Prior education and classes may be taken into consideration. It is important to discuss available options with admissions counselors.
Students who have a bachelor's degree in health informatics often continue their education by getting a master’s degree. The additional education offers a higher level of knowledge in health communication to make you more effective, makes you stand out from the competition during the interview process, and will give you eligibility for higher-level administrative roles. Furthermore, a master’s degree will allow for the possibility of earning a higher wage and also the opportunity to widen your available career options.
Programs vary depending on the individual university you attend. However, in general, most require:
- High school transcripts
- SAT or ACT scores
- At least one letter of recommendation
Part Six Health Informatics Courses
Universities will vary on course requirements for health informatics degrees. However, in general, students achieving an education in health information will learn about the following topics:
- Science courses, such as Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacology, and Medical Terminology
- Foundations of Health Informatics
- IT Leadership
- Research and Evaluation Methods
- Ethical Issues in IT
- Data Science
- Database Design
- Legal and Ethical Issues
- Digital Healthcare
- Health Communication
- Data Analytics
- Financial Management
- Practical Research
- Statistics and Programming
- Biomedical Informatics
- Nursing Informatics
- Organization Development and Hospital Management
Part Seven Health Informatics Careers
The field of health informatics is expanding rapidly, and there are so many different career possibilities for you no matter where you are in your career.
Entry-Level Health Informatics Careers
Health Informatics Specialist
A health informatics specialist - also known as a clinical informatics specialist, or health information technician - is someone who helps develop and support staff for the healthcare information systems used by a healthcare entity.
They also assist with overseeing the security of the organization’s computer system and network, as well as help create policies and procedures based on data received through their software.
Health informatics specialists also are responsible for analyzing and interpreting data to identify potential problems and areas that need improvement. This position will work closely with other members of the health informatics as well as the healthcare team to develop systems to aid in the collection, sharing, standardization, and overall integration of healthcare information and data.
Most informatics specialists work in hospitals; however, they can also work for government agencies or other private companies.
Mid-Level Health Informatics Careers
Clinical Informatics Manager
A clinical informatics manager is similar to an informatics specialist but is a position that requires more experience and is more supervisory.
This position is responsible for planning and managing an organization’s entire information system. Some of the tasks they have include monitoring staff productivity, ensuring system efficiency, monitoring finance goals, hiring staff, organizing training, and providing guidance to staff. The manager will also oversee projects being worked on by other members of the team.
Health Informatics Consultant
Health informatics consultants generally have the same level of experience and knowledge as a clinical informatics manager. But in this role, consultants are responsible for educating and training staff or even entire organizations about their computer software.
Consultants can also help businesses analyze their health information practices to ensure they function as efficiently as possible. Some companies hire health informatics consultants to see if they want to create their own health informatics department.
Nurses use health informatics software constantly to write, review, share and analyze medical records for their patients. Nursing health informatics software has empowered the nursing profession to provide a higher level of evidence-based care, eliminate medical errors and give the highest standard of patient care.
So it makes sense that the need for informatics nurses would be in demand. Informatics nurses analyze data to help clinicians give the best possible patient care and support their medical facility implement new information technology.
Informatics nurses work in a variety of roles as educators, software engineers, policy developers, and researchers. Masters degree level informatics nurses can even work as chief nursing officers.
Healthcare IT Project Manager
A healthcare IT project manager is responsible for hiring and managing a staff of project managers. Together, the team helps to implement healthcare-system-wide health information technology improvements.
This position usually requires a master’s degree in healthcare informatics. However, some facilities hire bachelor’s prepared employees for the job.
Top-Level Health Informatics Careers
An informatics director is an IT expert who oversees electronic medical records systems (EMR) in hospitals and healthcare systems. This position oversees facility-wide training to ensure that all staff know how to use their facility’s software to provide patient care best.
Larger hospital systems and university teaching facilities often require that you be a physician to have this role. However, many employers require a minimum of a master’s degree-level education in health informatics.
Chief Medical Information Officer
A chief medical information officer (CMIO) is a high-level informatics specialist and is usually a physician and health technology expert with specialized education in the field.
Some of the duties a CMIO performs are analyzing their organization’s IT software, helping to design specialized software, training doctors and other healthcare professionals on their healthcare informatics systems, and ensuring that overall operations operate smoothly.
CMIOs work for research institutions, universities, or government agencies, among other employers.
Part Eight Is a Master’s Degree in Health Informatics Worth It?
In short, yes.
Even students who only hold a bachelor’s degree in health informatics often continue their education by getting a master’s degree for many reasons. The additional education offers a higher level of knowledge in health communication to make you more effective, and you will increase your likelihood of being hired.
You will also have eligibility for higher-level administrative roles. Most importantly, having a master’s degree in health informatics will provide you with more choices and opportunities throughout your career.
Part Nine Is Health Informatics a Good Career?
If you enjoy working in the medical field as a behind-the-scenes player, enjoy learning new technology, love educating and training others, and desire to have a career that offers a unique cerebral challenge, then a career in health informatics would be a great career choice for you.
New information technologies are being created every day. Educated career specialists in health informatics will be needed to teach and manage this new technology in various medical settings.
As a result, there will also be tremendous opportunities available for those entering the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics (BLS), medical records and health information jobs are projected to increase by 8% between 2022-2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations. In total, there will be 16,500 more jobs than there are today.