Today, we have the ability to collect incredible amounts of information. The challenge is to process that information into something meaningful and useful, and an entire science has developed around it: informatics. Informatics analyzes raw data, converts it into useful information, and distributes it in a meaningful way.
Nowhere is informatics more important than in healthcare. We can digitally capture everything from doctor visit notes and prescribed medications to research study results and even details of the genetic code. Informaticists allow doctors, administrators and other healthcare leaders to analyze mountains of data to improve patient outcomes and ultimately create a healthier society.
If that wasn’t important enough, recent federal laws concerning electronic medical records have also increased the demand for health informaticists. But before we go any further and explain the benefits of studying health informatics—in terms of helping your career and society—let’s start with an introduction to the field and explain what health informatics is exactly.
Health informatics is the science that analyzes, organizes and disseminates medical-related information. Because of the sheer volume of that information, health informaticists may organize the data for a specific purpose (i.e. trying to determine the number of African-Americans within a certain age range and geographic location who have diabetes) or may simply be looking for meaningful patterns on their own or at the request of a medical professional.
It’s important to note that health informatics is not the same as health information management. A health information manager accumulates patient data and stores it as a personal health record in a doctor’s office, hospital or other organization; a health informaticist designs the technological framework to analyze data, manage it and exchange it in a digital format.
|Health Information Management||Health Informatics|
|Definition||“Health information management (HIM) is the practice of acquiring, analyzing and protecting digital and traditional medical information vital to providing quality patient care.” – American Health Information Management Association||“Health informatics is the interdisciplinary study of the design, development, adoption and application of IT-based innovations in healthcare services delivery, management and planning.” – US National Library of Medicine|
|Job Duties||HIM professionals compile, process and maintain medical records in a manner consistent with administrative, legal and regulatory requirements. Job duties may include:
||Health informatics professionals are tasked with developing, maintaining and facilitating electronic medical records systems and databases. Job duties may include:
Health informatics specialties
Because health informatics is such a broad term, there are several areas of application. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) classifies health informatics in five areas:
- Translational Bioinformatics: Also known simply as bioinformatics, this researched-based discipline focuses on biological data such as human genomes.
- Clinical Research Informatics: These informatics professionals also focus on data for research, although the data may not be biological in nature.
- Clinical Informatics: Often referred to as nursing informatics, this subset of informatics deals more with patient data.
- Public Health Informatics: The focus here is on using data to monitor trends in health, including success of treatments across populations.
- Consumer Health Informatics: Like public health informatics, consumer health informatics deals with consumer-related health data.
Health informatics professionals can work in even more specialized areas such as:
- Dental informaticsY
- Mental health informatics
- Nutritional informatics
- Pharmacy informatics
- Telemedicine and mobile computing informatics
- Veterinary informatics
Health informatics is a growing field, and a good career choice for anyone interested in exploring the marriage between healthcare and computer science. But is health informatics worth it? That’s largely a question about return on investment, so it’s helpful to start by examining the job outlook for health informaticists.
Health informatics job outlook
If you’re looking for an in-demand job in a growing field, health informatics is a good option to consider. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not currently have a job code specifically for health informaticists, it does track health information managers under the umbrella of medical and health services managers. According to the BLS, employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow 20 percent through 2026, much faster than the average for other management occupations (nine percent).
Numerous sources have also remarked on the growing field of health informatics in the United States:
|“There is one job category that has seen significant growth, yet has gone largely unnoticed in national job reports: health care informatics. As measured by online job postings, hiring demand in 2012 experienced a modest recovery, with total job listings up 6% and health care postings overall up 5% compared to 2007. In contrast, postings for health care informatics jobs took off, jumping 53% in that five-year period.” – Burning Glass Technologies, “A Growing Jobs Sector: Health Informatics”|
|“The healthcare analytics market has exploded. Healthcare organizations of all sizes are now seeking solutions that will help them better understand the population that they will be responsible for, and the incumbent risk therein as reimbursement models shift. This has created a hyper-driven market….” – Chilmark Research, “2013 Clinical Analytics Market Trends Report”|
|“The clinical data analytics market is about to get red hot. With the shift towards new payment models and the sheer amount of clinical data contained in electronic health records, more and more healthcare groups are looking to analytic solutions for population health management.” – Healthcare IT News, “Clinical data analytics next big thing” (August 27, 2013)|
How much do health informaticists make?
Salaries vary by job titles and geographical location, but the overall average salary for health IT professionals (informaticists included) in 2015 was much higher than the average salary for IT professionals across all industries:
|Average Salary (2015)|
|Health IT Professionals||$111,387|
|Other IT Professionals||$85,460|
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports similar earnings for health information professionals:
|Medical and Health Services Managers, Percentile Wage Estimates (2016)|
Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook
Whether you’re looking to take the next step in your health IT career or start a new professional chapter in the healthcare field, a master’s degree in health informatics can help you reach your goals. And thanks to online graduate-level health informatics programs, you can earn a master’s degree without putting your life on hold to go back to school.
The benefits of earning a Master of Health Informatics online include:
- Convenience and flexibility to work toward your degree whenever and wherever works best with your schedule.
- Choose from the best online health informatics programs delivered by top colleges and universities nationwide
- Network with likeminded health IT professionals across the country
Ready to start comparing programs?
See which Master in Health Informatics program is right for you.