Health Informatics

If you like working with computers and see how the use of technology can benefit the healthcare industry, health informatics may be a good fit for you. Find out what types of degree programs can help you prepare for a position, as well as how much you can earn in the cutting-edge field of health informatics.

Is Health Informatics for Me?

Career Overview

Health informatics (HI) is an emerging healthcare field where computational sciences, social sciences and biomedical sciences meet. It also falls under the umbrella of information technology (IT). HI involves the use of data acquisition and representation, data retrieval and analysis, change management and information integration. HI differs from health information management (HIM), which focuses on the accurate storage and management of patient records.

Job Duties

Your goal as a health informatics specialist is to use computer technology to facilitate the management of health records among doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other health-related organizations to enhance patient care and reduce costs. While executing your responsibilities, you'll also have to be aware of the administrative, ethical, legal and regulatory requirements associated with medical recordkeeping.

Increasingly, the healthcare industry is moving toward electronic health records (EHR), which means that patient information is stored in electronic format on a computer. As a health informatics specialist, you'll oversee the computer and information infrastructures that house the records, including their design and development.

Career Options

As a health informatics specialist, you may work in any industry engaged in both healthcare and IT. In addition to hospitals, potential employers can include medical groups and clinics, public health agencies, medical research institutions and insurers. You might also be employed by hardware and software vendors, Internet companies, consulting organizations and health information technology suppliers. You may work as a systems analyst or designer, consultant, manager or database administrator.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a 22% increase in employment for health information technicians from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). In May 2014, PayScale.com reported that the majority of health informatics specialists earned a median annual salary of $62,115.

How Can I Work in Health Informatics?

Educational Requirements

Education requirements for health informatics professionals can vary. Although you may find entry-level employment after earning an associate's degree in health informatics, a Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics or a master's degree in health informatics might open the door to more opportunities. If you're interested in academia, you'll need a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in a relevant field of study.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs are also available in health informatics and are designed primarily for health professionals who already have an advanced degree or training in the field. Interdisciplinary coursework can include topics in database design, computer networks, information resource management and systems analysis. You may also study healthcare technologies, medical terminology, healthcare ethics and research methods.

Certification

Programs that have been approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) can help you prepare for the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) exam, available from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Requirements include a bachelor's degree from a CAHIIM-accredited program, and although there's no guarantee, obtaining your certification may lead to enhanced opportunities in the field.

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