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What is Health Informatics

MB Jallow 17 April 2022

Health informatics is a science and engineering discipline that aims at developing methods and technologies to acquire, process, and study data from patients, which can come from various sources and modalities, including electronic health records and diagnostic test results. Health informaticians organize and analyze health records to improve patient outcomes. Furthermore, they develop procedures for collecting, examining, and executing patient care using existing resources and devices. In addition, they need to keep and retrieve all the necessary information relating to patients, treatments, and outcomes. They also establish communication protocols for the facilities where they work. By doing so, they ensure that doctors, nurses, and other professionals can access medical records quickly, efficiently, and effectively. 

Health informatics also covers a broad spectrum of disciplines that design, develop, and apply computational innovations to enhance health care. It combines computing with medical fields, in particular computer engineering, software and information engineering, bioinformatics, bioinspired computing, theoretical computer science, information systems, data science, information technology, autonomic computing, and behavioral informatics. A large portion of medical informatics research is devoted to artificial intelligence and the development of medical devices based on embedded systems. In certain countries, informatics is also applied in the context of hospital data management.

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Health Informatics Degree Programs

The subfield of health informatics is one of the most popular degree programs within health care management. Since the field is heavily technical and business-oriented, a bachelor's or master's degree is necessary. Interestingly, there are many available degree programs at all educational levels. If you dream of working in this field, you can earn a degree at any level of education you wish. In an article published by US News and World Report, the University of Alabama at Birmingham was described as the best school for graduate research in health informatics and healthcare management. The program is offered online, so employees from all over the world can enroll. Most students can complete their Master of Science in Health Informatics within 24 months. No prior medical experience is required for this program. In addition, those who wish to pursue graduate research in this field are not required to take the Graduate Record Examination, Graduate Management Admissions Test, or Miller Analogies Test. However, people familiar with medical coding, billing, and medical database operations are best suited to work in this field.

Many universities also offer health informatics as an undergraduate degree program. Students can tailor their junior and senior lessons to their chosen specialization in a program that takes up to 120 credits. Also, students can complete a combined bachelor's and master's program, saving time and money. However, it would be best if you talked to your chosen university about study options to find out what is available.

Degree programs with a focus on health informatics might include:

  • A bachelor's degree in health informatics
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Business-Information Technology Management
  • Graduate degree in health informatics
  • A master's degree in information systems
  • Masters in Health Informatics 

Additionally, health informatics students may specialize in several areas of information technology, such as software applications, databases, and analyses of biological data. It is essential that they can retrieve, share, and analyze data efficiently and carefully and make decisions based on the best outcomes for the patient. 

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Students specializing in public health informatics use technology to educate the public. They study computer technology and use their computer skills to improve medical research. Similarly, they are taught how to develop and execute brand-new techniques. Information systems researchers are concerned with communication within medical organizations and the compilation of data used by these companies. Similarly, they also make use of information technology and computer technology. Researchers in social informatics focus on the impact of computerization on society. In comparison with other disciplines, social informatics heavily depends on research studies and theories. Despite this, students studying it may end up making more improvements than others across a variety of disciplines. The field of medical informatics focuses on the way information innovations impact scientific research and medical education. Combined with social informatics, it complements the students' education and understanding of the process.

What Are The Career Opportunities And Pay Scale For Health Informaticians?

A health informatics professional's median wage in 2019 was $42,630. 10% of individuals in this field earn $71,150 or more. The amount an individual makes depends on their level of education. Associate degree holders tend to earn much less than those with bachelor's or master's degrees. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 341 600 openings available in this field in 2019. Accordingly, the domain will add 27,328 brand-new jobs between now and 2029, more than double that of many other occupations. Not only do these workers work in medical centers, but also in elderly care centers and physician's offices. In addition, many of them work for companies that manage medical billing, insurance, and medical oversight. Executives in this field make around twice as much as their lower-level counterparts. The salary of a director of medical informatics maybe $160,000 or more a year, and even relatively low management positions like charge nurse could guarantee an income of about $85,000. In addition to the field's development in general, salaries are also forecast to grow. 

Growth Drivers 

Market growth can be attributed mainly to implementing the electronic health record, or EHR. EHRs make it possible for Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies to communicate patient information efficiently and accurately. It is also effortless for doctors in many areas to review the patient's medical records simultaneously, allowing them to consult much more rapidly. With the ease with which health workers can share information in the 21st century, healthcare costs may eventually decline. The decline in these costs could also lead to reforms in the healthcare system.

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The Difference Between Health Informatics And Health Information Systems

What are the key differences between Health Information Management (HIM) and Health Informatics?  HIM is the process of acquiring, analyzing, and protecting the digital and traditional medical information that is vital to delivering quality patient care. According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), it combines business, science, and information technology. In addition to managing patients' medical data accurately and securely, HIM professionals perform many roles that impact patient care at every point in the process of the delivery of health care. On the other hand, health informatics deals with science that uses data, information, and knowledge to improve human health and health care delivery services. People who work in health informatics use computer and information science principles to do research and teach in the life sciences, and to help people in public health, health professions education, and patient care.

Despite the many similarities between HIM and health informatics, there are also many differences. They both relate to health information technology and electronic health records (EHRs), but they have a key difference:

  • HIM professionals specialize in managing and governing health records, while health informatics professionals focus on optimizing data quality in EHRs and other medical records.
  • HIM consists of health management activities related to billing, coding, data security and privacy, record keeping, regulatory compliance, and patient privacy held by health care organizations. In contrast, health informatics uses information technology systems to leverage the data generated by health information management systems and create knowledge that can boost productivity, reduce costs, and ultimately improve health outcomes.

Summary

In the most basic sense, health care informatics uses technology and data to improve clinical outcomes, lower costs, improve patient experiences, and provide more cost-effective care. In addition, it has many important applications for health care professionals, public health experts, insurance industry professionals, medical researchers, health care administrators, and biotechnology companies. The field of health informatics has been rapidly growing, and this trend will continue. Healthcare informatics innovation will improve as interaction innovation does. A growing number of walk-in clinics across the country offer their patients top-flight care using video appointments while working from home. Additionally, many of these centers have pharmacies on-site, so patients don't need to wait long for prescriptions.

Patients may have been required to travel many miles to see an expert, but now they can meet with that expert or family doctor remotely. The informatics professionals will help ensure that all necessary patient data is shared with the appropriate doctors. In many ways, healthcare is becoming more advanced each day.


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