As a heath informatics professional, you will need to treat technology as a tool that helps people – both patients and medical personnel, and to realize that it is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. In this realm, technology is an enabler to the ultimate goal of health care: taking care of people.
Many people embarking on new careers want to help people and are drawn by the field of medicine. However, medical school is costly and takes time. Also, many doubt their abilities to deal with the more difficult clinical aspects of patient care. Health informatics is a perfect way to be intrinsically involved in patient care without the additional schooling and direct patient care aspects. Overall, individuals who enjoy technology, health care science, communication, and administration, and business management are excellent candidates for a career in health informatics.
These are a few of the areas in which information systems need to be developed for these areas: medical records, telemedicine, clinical decision support, health policy, and hospital support systems, amongst others.
Health informatics generally focus either on management or technical duties. The Health Informatics Management Professionals:
- Oversee design and development of information systems that meet the needs of management
- Work with management to develop policies and procedures for handling information to ensure patient privacy and overall security requirements
- Ensure that information systems meet budget requirements
- Develop and manage inter-agency systems and policies
- Train users in the information systems
On the technical side, Health Informatic pros:
- Design and develop information systems that meet the needs and requirements of management, users, and stakeholders.
- Oversee development of high tech systems that allow for real-time communication, diagnosis, and consultation using video, audio, and web-based technologies
- Design, develop, and implement systems that operate between and among agencies
- Develop systems that adhere to policies and procedures for handling information to ensure patient privacy and overall security requirements
- Seamlessly integrate the requirements of the many areas in an enterprise into one user-friendly system
The minimum requirement for entrance into this career is a bachelor of science degree in disciplines such as
- Health Information Management and Administration
- Information Technology; many programs offer specialization in health informatics
- Health Informatics; many colleges now offer a BS degree in this program
There are also master’s degree programs in health informatics which enable individuals with undergraduate degrees in other disciplines to prepare for a career in the field.
For those who want to acquire additional certification, there is the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) job, which requires both a BS degree and successful completion of the RHIA certification examination.
Areas of Specialization
Since this is a new field, the options are many, as well as evolving. But some possibilities include:
- Hospitals and doctors’ offices: It is a challenging and necessary task to implement information systems for medical records without interfering with the day-to-day need for providers to give quality care.
- Insurance companies: As insurance companies consolidate and grow, the need to design and implement records systems is growing.
- Pharmaceutical companies: Systems are needed to keep track of the various studies and reports associated with drug manufacture.
- Medical non-profit organizations: Systems are needed for record keeping and patient status
- Government agencies: Systems are needed for medical record keeping.
- Academia: Programs in Health Informatics are literally exploding across the country, and the world. The need for qualified instructors with advanced degrees and some teaching experience is significant.
As mentioned previously, the fast growth of this profession lends for a “make your own career” situation. But in the meantime, here are some existing job titles to consider:
Health Informatics (HI) Department Director
HI Systems Manager
Data Quality Manager
Chief Privacy Officer
Information Security Officer
According to information gathered from the Medical College of Georgia, starting salaries for new graduates average $30,000 to $50,000. After 5 years, salaries raise from $50,000 to $75,000.
You can find more information about a career in health informatics by contacting any of the following professional organizations or reading the listed publications.
American Health Information Management Association
American Medical Informatics Association
National Center for Health Care Informatics
Federal Report on Health Care Informatics