What is health informatics?

Healthcare is increasingly using technology to improve patient care.

Since 2009, when the United States passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, a growing number of healthcare providers have adopted electronic health records (EHRs), which enable better communication between departments, providers and insurers. Over the last few years, the pandemic has sped up the use of telehealth services, putting patients in contact with their doctors virtually and reducing exposure to potential infection.

All of this technology — and the data it contains — offers new opportunities for the enhancement of healthcare. That’s where health informatics comes in.

A unique mashup of healthcare expertise, data and technological skill, health informatics harnesses a health facility’s information and systems to improve care for each individual patient. And with the explosion of health technology, the field is on a growth trajectory.

Here’s what you should know about health informatics.

Health Informatics: A Definition

With so much information, surely we can learn more about human health — and optimize healthcare processes — if we just pay attention to what we already know. Health informatics exists to make sure the data health organizations collect isn’t wasted.

According to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), “Informatics is the key to ensuring healthcare data are translated into meaningful knowledge that helps healthcare professionals make appropriate decisions to assist people.”

Informatics professionals, then, must be both healthcare experts and data- and analysis-minded. They need an insider’s understanding of healthcare — perhaps from a background in nursing or working as a physician’s assistant — along with the skills to wrangle data and make accurate analyses.

Depending on the organization, informatics professionals may work as generalists or specialists focused on any of the following areas:

  • Clinical informatics: Sometimes called applied clinical informatics or operational informatics, this type of informatics focuses on optimizing the delivery of healthcare services. Clinical informatics professionals ensure a provider’s EHR system is secure and usable, and that the appropriate staff know how to navigate the system.
  • Clinical research informatics: Aimed at developing new knowledge and understanding of health and disease, clinical research informatics involves managing information from clinical trials, as well as clinical data that is being used for research purposes.
  • Consumer health informatics: Uses health information to empower patients, whether through systems designed to serve health literacy, deliver consumer education or provide access to personal health records.
  • Public health informatics: Collects and harness community health information to inform public health efforts. In the pandemic era, this has taken such shapes as monitoring wastewater for coronavirus particles, reporting new outbreaks and maintaining counts of infections and infection rates.
  • Translational bioinformatics: Uses genomic and biomedical data to inform “proactive, predictive, preventive, and participatory health,” as described by AMIA. This includes looking into new ways to integrate biological and clinical data into existing health practices.

Jobs in Health Informatics

Informatics is a young field, with increasing opportunities. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth over the next 10 years for Medical Records and Health Information Specialists at 9 percent and Medical and Health Services Managers at 32 percent (informatics professionals can be classified in either category).

For candidates with a Master’s in Health Informatics, Payscale reports that the average starting salary is $72,000 a year.

Job opportunities for health informatics professionals include:

  • Clinical analyst
  • Clinical data analyst
  • Clinical data manager
  • Clinical informatics specialist
  • Clinical systems analyst
  • Data analyst
  • Director of clinical services
  • Health informatics specialist
  • IT consultant
  • Programmer analyst

Earn Your Master of Science in Health Informatics

If you’re ready to use data to transform healthcare, the health informatics program at Regis University may be right for you. Designed for busy professionals, the program runs completely online with multiple start dates throughout the year. In 12 to 24 months, you can graduate with a new credential that will open doors for your health informatics career.

Along with central courses on information systems, health IT, and healthcare informatics, you can follow elective tracks in information technology or health care services — or earn a data science specialization.

  • Health care informatics and information management in health care settings
  • Nursing and clinical informatics
  • Healthcare performance evaluation
  • Workflow and change management in adoption of health IT
  • Management of e-HIM (health information management) and information governance
  • Ethics, privacy, and social justice in data science

Choose the focus that best fits your aspirations, and you’ll be equipped for the health informatics career that’s right for you.

Take the first step toward a career in informatics. Learn more about the M.S. in Health Informatics.

Become a Regis Ranger