What is Health Informatics?
Health informatics is the application of computer science and information technology to the many different facets of health care. Sometimes referred to as health care informatics, medical informatics or biomedical informatics, the goal of health informatics is to improve patient outcomes, create greater efficiencies in health care systems, accelerate research, solve public health challenges and empower individuals to use data to improve their own health. An aging population, a demand for greater efficiency in the healthcare space and an increasingly interconnected world are just a few of the factors powering the growth of health informatics.
From your smartwatch, to advanced medical research centers, to agencies working to prevent global pandemics, health informatics is at the heart of 21st century health care. As a rapidly expanding field, it also offers incredible opportunities for those with advanced training in computer science to succeed while improving the lives of countless others.
Studying health informatics requires a multidisciplinary education that involves both a grounding in computer science and health care. Students studying health informatics receive training in topics including data analytics, human-computer interaction, social network analytics and more. To supplement their health care industry education, students may also take classes through their nursing and medical schools or school of public health.
Depending on their area of interest, students may also benefit from training in other areas of computing and information science. For example:
Health Informatics Fields and Career Opportunities
Health informatics impacts every sector of health care, leading to an increase in specialization in the industry. From your doctor’s office to the research lab to the newest cutting-edge tech startup, these are just a few of the career fields available in health informatics:
- Health Care Informatics – Sometimes referred to as clinical informatics, health care informatics deals with electronic health records (EHR) including medical imaging in a clinical setting. Health care informatics requires an understanding of both health care management and data security. Health care informatics can also include specific disciplines such as nursing informatics, dental informatics and pathology informatics.
- Biomedical Informatics – Sometimes referred to as bioinformatics, biomedical informatics uses data science, artificial intelligence and other technologies to solve health care challenges at the cellular, genetic and molecular level. Biomedical informatics is unlocking new ways to prevent disease and find new cures with greater speed and accuracy than ever before.
- Research Informatics – This branch of health informatics uses computer science to facilitate and improve biomedical and health research. Research informatics includes translational informatics, which connects research from the laboratory to the bedside to widespread clinical practice.
- Public Health Informatics – Specialists in public health informatics use health care data to track, report and predict population health trends and solve public health challenges at a community, national and global level.
- Consumer Health Informatics – Specialists in consumer health informatics use technology to enhance health care by improving public health literacy, connecting consumers to health care resources, letting consumers track and use personal health data and helping consumers manage and improve their own health outside of a clinical setting.
In addition, future-facing health technologies, such as using AI to speed clinical research, wearable robotics, bioprinting human tissue, and nanomedicine all require vast quantities of data to be applicable and scalable. Having computer scientists skilled in health informatics will be critical to the growth of these new developments
Graduates of Drexel’s Masters in Health Informatics (MSHI) program develop the specialized skills to pursue a diverse range of health informatics careers at leading healthcare companies around the world. The health informatics job outlook is bright, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a positive job outlook until 2024 with approximately 15% growth in health information management.
Depending on need and geographic location, salaries vary throughout the country for those with a master’s degree in health informatics. However, the average median salary for a professional with a master’s degree in health informatics is $90,000 per year.
Health informatics places an emphasis on the tools required to create a more secure and streamlined path to acquiring, storing, and making use of information in a healthcare environment. The field of health informatics spans a variety of providers that care for a patient throughout that patient’s lifetime, helping retrieve sensitive, pertinent data that delivers better outcomes.
Some examples of health informatics jobs include:
- Chief medical information officer - The duties of a chief medical information officer, or CMIO, include tasks such as designing new software to help hospitals manage electronic medical records (EMR), assessing the performance of a hospital’s IT systems, or training others in IT roles.
- Clinical analyst - A clinical analyst, or clinical data analyst, works with hospitals and clinics to develop, upgrade and maintain IT systems in the healthcare industry.
- Clinical informatics specialist - A clinical informatics specialist, or informatics nurse, is responsible for managing complex data while acting as a point of coordination between clinicians, patients and other nurses.
- Health informatics consultant - A health informatics consultant is responsible for delivering expert guidance on the maintenance and organization of EMR.
- Health informatics director - A director of health informatics, or director of medical informatics, is responsible for ensuring the smooth and successful implementation, use and storage of EMR.
- Electronic medical record keeper - An EMR keeper, also called an EMR specialist or EMR analyst, generally performs tasks such as data conversion, information analysis and technical writing.
- Informatics nurse - See “clinical informatics specialist” above for a description and estimated annual salary for this position.
- Nursing informatics specialist - The American Nurses Association defines the job description for a nursing informatics specialist, or INS, as an individual who is “formally prepared at the graduate level in informatics or a related field.”
CCI's MS in Health Informatics Program is CAHIIM Accredited
Drexel's online Master's in Health Informatics is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Drexel CCI is also a proud charter member of the American Medical Informatics Association Academic Forum.