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What Is Health Informatics? Definition, Jobs and Examples

At a glance

What is health informatics?

At the intersection of healthcare and information technology is health informatics — the science that guides the collection, analysis and use of data to direct innovation and better outcomes.

Health informatics helps to modernize medical practices across the healthcare space. Among other important roles, it helps provide doctors, nurses and other practitioners with reliable access to medical records.

Health informatics represents one of several career options available to IT students. If you’re looking for a career that combines information technology with high levels of personal service, a job in health informatics could be ideal for you.

What do health informatics specialists do?

As a health informatics specialist, you help regulate many of the IT processes that improve efficiency in healthcare. Working in a healthcare setting, you help create and implement IT strategies that make a practitioner’s role more efficient.

Your role might differ from one day to the next. For example, one day you might educate doctors in a particular department about new platforms that deliver medical records. Another day you might spend time upgrading a healthcare facility’s computer systems, or research technology that directly supports patient care.

Notably, a career in health informatics is different from a career in health information technology. Unlike informatics, health information technology means using technology to support every aspect of patient care, including patient health data, facility transactions, and other print or digital information that helps a healthcare facility run. Health informatics can include health information technology, but it mainly focuses on using health information to make informed decisions to improve health. 

Where do health informatics specialists work?

Depending on your employer, you could work in a wide variety of locations. Many health informatics specialists are hired by a single healthcare facility or healthcare provider. In other cases, you might be hired by a private medical research facility or healthcare organization.

Typically, a health informatics specialist needs to work near healthcare providers. You might be employed at a hospital, outpatient clinic, nursing home, surgical center or other healthcare facilities. In some cases, you might work for a government agency or a government-sponsored organization.

Skills needed for health informatics

Health informatics specialists regularly depend on a deep skill set. Whether they’re overseeing large-scale data collection processes, analyzing patient data or sharing insights to improve efficiency, their skills play an important role in the success of your healthcare facility.

For a successful career in health informatics, you might need to develop the following skills:

  • Information technology — Management of information systems, including both software and hardware, that can intelligently communicate, store data and exchange information across a secure network.
  • Medical records management — Creation, storage and delivery of confidential patient medical records through electronic or print mediums.
  • Data analysis — Assessment of raw data, collected digitally, in ways that can bolster healthcare facility efficiency and improve patient outcomes.
  • Public speaking — Communication of IT-related strategies to small or large groups of healthcare representatives.
  • Instruction — Delivery of new healthcare informatics processes to doctors, nurses and other facility employees in ways that allow all staff to retain new information.
  • Patient care — Proper support for all patients of a hospital, outpatient facility, nursing home or other healthcare organizations.
  • Interpersonal communication — Clear dialogue between the health informatics team and anyone who might need the gathered information.
  • Troubleshooting — Ongoing system testing to identify issues, improve functionality and update hardware or software applications.

These and other skills allow a health informatics specialist to fulfill each aspect of the role, whether you find yourself communicating with a doctor or analyzing data to improve patient care.

How to become a health informatics specialist

You’ll need to fulfill a few steps if you want to become a health informatics specialist. With the right combination of education and skills, you may find yourself on the track toward a rewarding career.

Education opportunities

Finding the right healthcare degree is often the first step toward a rewarding career in health informatics. To enter this field, you’ll need to gain the core skills in information technology (IT) and administration to understand how to incorporate data and technology into health leadership.

You might choose to begin your journey with the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree focused on healthcare, such as a Bachelor of Science in Health Administration (BSHA), or Bachelor of Science in Health Management (BSHM). At University of Phoenix, our BSHA has a health information systems elective track option that aligns to the CAHIMS certification, which could be a great start for this career path.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, you might choose to continue your education by obtaining a master’s degree in health administration (MHA). This degree can help provide the foundation for the leadership side of healthcare, teaching students the skills to better understand and manage patient data and clinical records to improve patient care. University of Phoenix offers an MHA with a concentration in Informatics. This degree program will help develop your skills in data privacy, organizational performance and IT.

Health informatics can also be a career option for registered nurses (RNs) who want to transition into the informatics side of healthcare. RNs with an undergraduate degree in nursing might choose to continue their education with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a focus on informatics. This degree focuses on analyzing data to influence quality of care delivery. University of Phoenix also offers a Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in Informatics

Certificates and license requirements

In addition to fulfilling the educational requirements, you may be interested in additional healthcare certificates. Certificates can help deepen your understanding of a particular field and further qualify you for a health informatics specialist position.

Some available certificates include:

The following industry certification may be available through the certification bodies indicated below. Such certifications are not offered at University of Phoenix, nor do University of Phoenix programs lead to such certifications:

Health informatics specialist salary

After one becomes a health informatics specialist, the exact salary might depend on a few factors. Employer, place of work, education history, active certifications and other factors will likely influence earnings.

The salary of a health informatics specialist ranges from $29,130 to $105,690, according to May 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Health informatics specialist job outlook

Health informatics specialists are expected to enjoy a favorable job outlook over the next decade. BLS projects employment for health informatics specialists to grow 9% between 2020-2030. This growth rate is roughly the same as projections across all markets.

Many of the 34,300 projected yearly job openings for health informatics specialists will be the result of an aging workforce. As current health informatics specialists retire, or transition into different roles, new specialists will be needed to take their places and provide quality healthcare.

Other specialist roles likely will become available with advancements in technology. As IT processes develop and electronic health records are more widely used, the increased need for healthcare technology may result in more health informatics specialist positions.

Is becoming a health informatics specialist right for you?

Depending on your career aspirations, experience and other factors, a job as a health informatics specialist might be ideal for you.

Choosing a career is easier when you’ve chosen the right college program to prepare you. Identifying the right degree program isn’t always easy, but the way can be smoothed when you align your interests with your talents.

Ultimately, finding the right career path  sometimes requires trial and error. Try working with a counselor — or with your university’s career center — to help align your interests and your strengths and identify potential employment opportunities.

If you’re interested in a career in healthcare that allows you to help others and exercise a love for technology, health informatics deserves your attention as a potentially rewarding career option.

If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in health informatics, learn more about the Undergraduate Health Information Systems Certificate, Master of Health Administration with a concentration in Informatics and Graduate Health Care Informatics Certificate at University of Phoenix.