Professionals in “health informatics,” a rapidly growing field that involves collecting and analyzing health care data, are blazing a new path in an area where computers and care providers work together.
While informatics in medicine is increasing the usefulness of patient data, a federal mandate for “meaningful use” of digitized patient records plus financial incentives for creating and maintaining electronic health records are putting pressure on even the smallest clinics to use computers to improve care. As a result, job opportunities in the health informatics field are increasing.
Careers in health informatics vary depending on the size of the employer and what types of health data they manage. Most jobs involve gathering data and analyzing them, designing workflows, measuring impact, educating and training end users, managing a system or acting as a liaison between users and coders.
If you have a background in health or information technology, a Master of Science in Health Informatics degree, such as the one offered online at The University of Scranton, can be your introduction to a field where you can help others without having to learn to code.
Here are some of the opportunities graduates might have when they enter the workforce.
This career can be applied to a range of responsibilities. In smaller settings, such as a doctor’s office or a small medical practice, a clinical informaticist might be responsible for organizing and managing patient data; making the information available to health care providers, staff, and patients; educating the end users in the current systems; optimizing information technology (IT) use; and receiving feedback and requests from users. In a large organization such as a network of hospitals, those duties might be split up among multiple informaticists.
Pharmacy or nutrition informaticist
On a smaller scale, informatics is useful when using patient and prescription data to make medication safer and more efficient. Pharmacy informaticists use data to monitor dosing and adverse reactions and ensure more accurate and detailed prescriptions from physicians to improve patients’ results.
Similarly, nutrition informaticists use patient data to make more informed decisions about food planning, whether the goal is to reduce allergic reactions, or improve a treatment plan.
The informaticist’s job can involve a lot of face-to-face education and problem solving; the analyst’s job is focused on working with data. A health informatics analyst studies data and develops models of events and concepts that can provide answers to clinical questions. Some analysts also collect data or support the collection and systems used to manage the data. What is analyzed — from study design to insurance claims, patient readmission, and education outcomes — depends on the employer.
The intersection between informatics and nursing is particularly rich in job opportunities. Nurse informaticists are liaisons between nurses and developers. They study workflows to help developers build tools that nurses can use. They relay concerns and limitations to find solutions that work for both the programmers and the users. They design systems and build functions that allow nurses to make the best use of data.
Informatics specialists often work with an organization’s leadership on directives, quality initiatives, and governance to ensure IT systems that collect, manage, and secure data are working for the group. If a hospital chief executive officer wants to reduce patient readmissions and post-surgical infections, the informatics specialist is responsible for defining progress toward those goals and for identifying and testing solutions with data. The solutions may not necessarily involve developing an application or improving a computer system, but usually, the outcomes are measured and monitored with data.
The informatics manager is responsible for making sure systems are working when they are needed. They facilitate access to data, check that collected data are accurate and ensure all the information is in compliance with federal and state guidelines. A clinical informatics manager might oversee these tasks for an entire hospital or medical practice.
If you already have IT or hospital administration experience, being a director of informatics for a healthcare organization is the most lucrative job on the list. Responsibilities include promoting informatics systems within an organization, making those systems work for the organization, gauging feedback and staying up to date with the best tools available for your organization’s goals.
Learn more about a degree in Health Informatics from The University of Scranton.