Health care systems rely on networks of administrative professionals to support their clinical and managerial operations. These professionals use electronic health records (EHRs) to track patient data, monitor data systems, and create tools for everything from patient scheduling and billing to charting and tracking patient care plan compliance. For student professionals interested in finding a career that unites health care and information technology, reading a brief overview of how to become a health informatics specialist may be exactly what they determine whether this is the most desirable career path.
What Is Health Informatics?
Health informatics is a new, groundbreaking professional discipline — one that developed over time as the applications of digital technologies became more advanced and accessible. Today, the scope of practice for health informatics specialists is very broad. In fact, health informatics has become an umbrella term that comprises all aspects of managing and processing the information used by health care organizations.
Health informatics professionals have optimized many aspects of the health care industry by using information technology to optimize the clinical and administrative processes employed by health care organizations. Their contributions range from creating systems that simplify storing, tracking, and using patient data to more complex functions, like developing computerized systems to inform clinical diagnostic procedures or suggest treatment options.
Specific Steps to Become a Health Informatics Specialist
The key to becoming a health informatics specialist is building a strong foundation of formal education and clinical experience, with a heavy concentration in informatics. To pursue this role, it is common for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing or another health care-related field and then attain a master’s degree in health administration or health informatics. For students who want to transition to this field from a non-health care background, Regis College has one of the few accredited Master of Health Administration (MHA) programs that accept students with no prior health care experience.
Regis College’s health administration program teaches students how to navigate the intricate systems that organizations use to manage and secure patient data. For example, health information systems coursework teaches students how to evaluate patient data networks and identify practical ways to optimize their overall performance. In addition to earning a graduate degree, becoming a Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems can help job seekers to find lucrative work as health informatics specialists. This professional certification, offered by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, is designed to validate an individual’s knowledge, competency, and credibility, thereby allowing an informatics specialist to further distinguish himself or herself in this competitive field.
What Does a Health Informatics Specialist Do?
Aspiring health informatics specialists can expect their basic responsibilities to include cataloging patient data and records, developing new methods of managing patient information, managing databases, and overseeing the process of transferring patient information across digital networks.
Health informatics specialists typically have a considerably broad skill set, which makes their expertise valuable in many areas of health care, such as data analysis and policy development. This versatility is apparent in Master of Health Administration graduates, because their education has equipped them with executive skills that translate well into leadership and management-oriented roles.
Even students who hold a non-health care related degree can find a place in this field, as the unique knowledge and experience they bring to the table often can complement the education they get in an MHA program, allowing them to develop a more dynamic approach to working in complex fields, such as health informatics, in the future. In the informatics field, MHA graduates are often exceptional candidates for positions supervising clinical informatics departments or managing projects that involve the frequent use of informatics resources.
Apart from administration, informatics specialists analyze patient data to produce information that might inform organizational decisions and influence patient outcomes. This data analysis can be essential to the success of organizations, as they can use the findings to improve practices or to facilitate compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
As the discipline grows and technology advances, the spectrum of duties attributed to informatics specialists continues to expand — and with it, the demand for professionals with advanced degrees in health administration. For example, according to the Occupational Information Network, computer systems analysts, including health informatics specialists, earned a median salary of $88,270 in 2017, and the field is trending toward a growth rate of 5 to 9 percent between 2016 and 2026.
Top Skills for Health Informatics Specialists
Health care organizations benefit from having access to educated health informaticists, because these professionals allow health systems to optimize their information systems based on their unique needs. Therefore, Regis College helps its MHA students develop the following practical skills:
Proficiency with Information Technology. Computers, databases, and networking equipment are staples of a health informatics career.
Project Management. Health informatics specialists can use their project management skills to manage informatics projects and to develop new tools and practices that can improve projects across an organization.
Data Management. This skill is the crux of an informatics career. Becoming proficient in the systems that health care organizations use to store and transmit health data makes a difference in how efficiently health care informatics specialists are able to perform their core duties.
Strategy and Planning. Informatics specialists must be aware of how to implement new information management-related programs. If implementation strategies are poorly planned, employees might not understand new programs, which could limit their performance.
How Health Informatics Has Improved Health Care
Health informatics may be a relatively new field compared with most health care professions, but this discipline has had an immense impact on the health care industry. With the high earning potential and rising number of available job opportunities, more people should be researching how to become a health informatics specialist. Rather than going through the painstaking process of physically exchanging medical charts and other health information, health care providers can now share vital data instantaneously using informatics tools. Likewise, processing patient data requires fewer resources than ever, making it easier to develop new health care interventions.
Health care informatics has improved patient safety and patient experience in health care, and it has streamlined health care operations as well. New advancements in health care informatics are still to be developed as researchers and health care systems learn how to use aggregate patient data to provide better care and to staff workforces more efficiently.
Integrating personal health, wellness, and fitness data and devices with patient health care records to inform and guide individual care plans is an exciting new development in health care informatics, too. This field has many opportunities for health informatics specialists to develop and contribute their own expertise. Enrolling in the Master of Health Administration program at Regis College can position graduates to enter the field of health informatics and begin developing their own methods for improving health care information systems.
Health care administrators are adaptable professionals who must manage their organization’s budgetary, technological, ethical, and regulatory demands while ensuring that patients receive outstanding care. Those who wish to align their career path toward becoming a health care administrator might consider an online MHA graduate degree program like the flexible and rigorous MHA program at Regis College.