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Exploring health informatics as a career

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This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
Read more about our editorial process.

Mark Johannsson

This article was reviewed by Mark Jóhannsson, DHSc, MPH, Dean, College of Health Professions

This article was updated on 04/26/2024.

 

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. Why is health informatics important? It helps to modernize medical practices, providing doctors, nurses and other practitioners with reliable access to medical records.

Technologies that collect and organize electronic records and data help healthcare facilities and systems run more efficiently and potentially deliver higher-quality care. For example, by gathering and organizing healthcare data into databases and registries, health informatics professionals make it possible for clinicians to track outcomes on a larger scale, providing valuable insights that can lead to improvements in treatment. In doing so, health informatics may also help make healthcare safer, more accessible and more affordable.

Professionals who work in informatics help healthcare systems and providers use and apply these technologies. In this way, they play an important role in delivering better healthcare.

We spoke with Nye Clinton, PhD, MBA, associate dean in the College of Health Professions at University of Phoenix, who notes, “As technology becomes a more significant aspect of healthcare, the importance of healthcare informatics has increased in recent years.”

Prepare for the fast-growing healthcare industry. Start earning your degree. 

What are the different types of informatics? 

Informatics is a field with many different applications in healthcare. Among these are health informatics and nursing informatics, which University of Phoenix prepares students for

Here’s a closer look at each:

  • Health informatics involves using healthcare data to uncover insights that advance innovation, support more effective decision-making and drive efficiencies.
  • Nursing informatics refers to collecting and analyzing data and records specifically related to nursing practice.

Bioinformatics, meanwhile, relates to biological data that can be used to further research in pharmacology, genomics, bioengineering and other scientific fields that can impact healthcare and medicine. UOPX does not prepare students for careers in bioinformatics or pharmacy informatics, but these areas of expertise exist within the field and may occasionally intersect with health or nursing informatics.

What is the difference between nursing informatics and health informatics? 

Nursing informatics and health informatics have different emphases. In the most basic terms, health informatics is a broad category that encompasses nursing informatics as a subset specialty with a narrower, more specific scope.

Health informatics Nursing informatics
Focuses on healthcare systems in general
Focuses on healthcare systems in general
Focuses on healthcare systems in general
Focuses on the role of nursing in healthcare systems
Involves many aspects of healthcare, including patients, processes and finances
Involves many aspects of healthcare, including patients, processes and finances
Involves many aspects of healthcare, including patients, processes and finances
Emphasizes patient care
Generates insights and solutions for improvement that may be applied across many healthcare functions
Generates insights and solutions for improvement that may be applied across many healthcare functions
Generates insights and solutions for improvement that may be applied across many healthcare functions
Generates insights and solutions to support improvements in clinical workflow and practices

 

What do professionals in health informatics do? 

Professionals in health informatics help regulate many of the IT processes that improve efficiency in healthcare. They may create and implement IT strategies that make practitioners’ roles more efficient, for example.

Clinton shares: “Health informatics specialists help to reduce errors, improve efficiency and ensure compliance with regulations by ensuring that providers have access to accurate and timely information.”

The day-to-day responsibilities of this role might vary. 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 conduct research into technology that directly supports patient care.

Other tasks may involve:

  • Managing and maintaining networks and computer systems at a healthcare facility
  • Supporting health informatics applications and platforms
  • Managing electronic health records and related systems
  • Training clinicians and administrators on how to use new technologies

Notably, careers in health informatics are different from careers 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 facility run. Health informatics can include health information technology, but it mainly focuses on using health information to make informed decisions to improve health. 

Skills needed in health informatics 

Health informatics professionals need an extensive set of both hard and soft skills. Whether a professional is overseeing large-scale data collection, analyzing patient data or sharing insights to improve efficiency, health informatics skills play an important role not just in individual career success but also the success of a healthcare facility.

A career in health informatics generally requires developing hard skills in:

  • Information technology: This involves the management of information systems, including both software and hardware, that can intelligently communicate, store data and exchange information across a secure network. You should also know how to evaluate new tools and emerging technologies and be able to determine whether they are appropriate for the facility or system.
  • Medical records management: You must know how to create, store and deliver confidential patient medical records through electronic or print channels. You must also understand applicable privacy laws and standards for handling this sensitive information, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
  • Data analysis: It’s important to understand how to assess and analyze raw data, collected digitally, in ways that can bolster healthcare facility efficiency and improve patient outcomes.
  • Troubleshooting: Informatics professionals must know how to engage in ongoing system testing to identify issues, improve functionality and update hardware or software applications.

In addition to hard skills in technology and healthcare processes, it’s also a good idea to develop soft skills in order to work effectively in healthcare and team settings. These include:

  • Public speaking: Professionals need to be able to communicate IT-related strategies and concepts to small or large groups of healthcare employees so that they understand their significance and impact.
  • Instruction: You must be able to explain often complex healthcare informatics processes to doctors, nurses and other facility employees in ways that allow all staff to understand them and retain the information.
  • Interpersonal communication: In addition to formal presentations and training sessions, health informatics professionals are often required to informally share information and engage with other team members, office workers and caregivers as they carry out their daily tasks.

These and other health informatics skills help individuals fulfill each aspect of the role.

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Where you can work in health informatics 

Health informatics professionals can work in a wide variety of locations. Typically, they find employment with healthcare providers, but certain roles, especially those focused on technology, may be remote.

Professionals may work at a single healthcare facility, such as a hospital, outpatient clinic or nursing home. In other cases, they may work at a private medical research facility or healthcare system.

There are also opportunities to work for agencies or third-party businesses that provide IT services to healthcare organizations. Even government agencies employ health informatics professionals.  

How to get started in a health informatics career

Wondering how to break into the health informatics industry? It starts with education. Finding the right healthcare degree is often the first step, because roles in this field rely on core skills in information technology and administration.

One option is to earn a bachelor’s degree focused on healthcare, such as a Bachelor of Science in Health Administration (BSHA) or a Bachelor of Science in Health Management (BSHM). At University of Phoenix, the BSHA program has a health information systems elective track option that aligns with the Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CAHIMS®) certification, which establishes and demonstrates professional knowledge in healthcare information and management. 

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, you might choose to continue your education by earning a master’s degree in health administration. The Master of Health Administration (MHA) at UOPX, for example, can help provide a foundation to lead in healthcare. Specifically, students learn more about healthcare operations, policies and processes.

If you already have a healthcare degree or experience in the field, you may be interested in earning a certificate in health informatics. (This is also a good option for those considering a career change.) Certificate programs focus on understanding the healthcare environment and provide expertise in technology and informatics, all of which is useful in health informatics roles.

University of Phoenix offers two certificates in this area:

Obtaining the Health Information Systems Certificate prepares you to sit for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CAHIMS) national exam. This certification is designed specifically for relatively new employees in the informatics field. It introduces a wide variety of informatics basics.

Careers in health informatics 

If you’re looking for a career that combines information technology with high levels of personal service, a job that works with health informatics could be ideal for you.

Potential roles include:

  • Health information management director: This role might include recruiting and training health informatics teams, organizing electronic patient and office records, and ensuring technologies align with goals for ensuring healthcare quality and efficiency. The Health Information Systems Certificate (Undergraduate) program prepares for this role.
  • Health manager: Health managers typically organize, plan and direct health services at an entire facility, clinical department or medical practice. They typically ensure their workplace complies with laws and regulations, create work schedules and train new staff. The Bachelor of Science in Health Management program educationally prepares for this role.

Clinton gives us an example: “Understanding the role of health informatics will ensure that health managers properly value and leverage informatics to achieve the best outcomes for their organizations.”

Health informatics salaries and outlook 

Health informatics salaries depend on several factors. These include the nature of the role, the employer, place of work, education history and degree level obtained and whether you hold active certifications. For example,  looking at the salaries for medical and health service managers who may work with health informatics, as of May 2022, they earned between $86,080 and $157,640, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The salary ranges figures 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.

Employment for medical and health services managers is projected to grow by 8% from 2022 to 2032, according to BLS. This translates to an estimated 15,000 openings each year. As current medical and health service managers retire or transition into different roles, new managers will be needed to take their places. In addition, as IT processes and technologies develop and electronic health records are more widely used, the increased need for healthcare technology may result in even more health informatics positions.

BLS Occupational Employment Projections, 2022-2032 is published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data reflects BLS’ projections of national (not local) conditions. These data points are not specific to University of Phoenix students or graduates.

Is a career in health informatics right for you? 

If you’re interested in a career in healthcare that allows you to help others and exercise a love for technology, health informatics is an option to consider. (It combines both!) Before you choose a career in health informatics, make sure to do your research. As  noted, you should have a good sense of which education programs you’ll need to pursue, what skills you need to develop and how all of that can align to a career.

Is health informatics a good career for you? Ultimately, finding the right career path sometimes requires trial and error. Try working with a counselor — or with your university’s career center — to identify potential employment opportunities that align with your interests and aptitude.

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Health informatics at University of Phoenix

Want to learn more about health informatics? University of Phoenix can help! Its flexible, online educational opportunities include the following options:

  • Undergraduate Health Information Systems Certificate — This program focuses on database concepts, information networking, system design and project management of health information systems.
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Administration — In addition to general health administration courses, this program offers three health information systems courses focusing on such skills as integration, detail orientation and information systems management.
  • Graduate Health Care Informatics Certificate — This program includes courses that focus on the introduction to graduate study in health sciences and nursing, informatics for health administration, data management and design in health administration.

To request more information about these certificate and degree program offerings, visit the UOPX website

Photo of blog author Michael Feder smiling.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Feder is a content marketing specialist at University of Phoenix, where he researches and writes on a variety of topics, ranging from healthcare to IT. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars program and a New Jersey native!

 

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