Future of Health Informatics for Health Professionals

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A health care professional works on a tablet in a hospital hallway.

Health informatics is a relatively new discipline, but it has already made a profound impact on health care. Concepts that once seemed futuristic, such as telehealth and electronic health records (EHRs), are increasingly common parts of a health care facility’s care delivery strategy. As the discipline continues to advance through forward-thinking innovations, such as the interoperability of EHR systems and the use of predictive analytics, health care organizations are placing a greater emphasis on incorporating informatics for health professionals into their operational strategies.

As technology costs decrease, highly visible examples of informatics such as telemedicine are being adopted and implemented by health providers and consumers at increasing rates; a trend that has particularly been made clear during the COVID-19 pandemic. These solutions fit perfectly, especially among a young population that is technology savvy. Health informatics advancements also span all health disciplines, and help empower care providers and consumers alike.

Health Informatics for Administrators and Leaders

Informatics technology provides administrators and organizational leaders with immediate access to critical information, helping them plan and deliver safe and efficient services. Informatics helps health professionals and health care organizations reach consumers in remote areas and fulfill community health needs. The technology helps care providers maintain reliable and accurate patient information and reduce service errors such as conflicting prescriptions. In addition, it makes it easier to share health information with other organizations, so care providers can make timely, evidenced-based decisions.

Informatics for Health Care Organizations

Informatics has changed the way health care organizations operate. Today, health care enterprises can extrapolate meaningful information from seemingly immeasurable data stores.

Most health care waste derives from inefficient operations. Informatics technology streamlines organizational operations, saving hospitals and medical facilities millions of dollars annually. For instance, increased accuracy in service delivery reduces errors, and in turn, reduces malpractice claims. The technology also allows organizations to perform faster diagnostics, reducing overall patient costs, risk of harm, and discomfort.

How Health Professionals Utilize Informatics

Health informatics encompasses the capture, transmission, and use of electronic information. The discipline revolves around informatics principles, information systems, and information technology as they are applied to health care. Many disciplines converge to embody the field, including, but not limited to:

  • Health care delivery
  • Health care safety
  • Information science
  • Management engineering
  • Public health
  • Telemedicine

Care providers apply informatics principles in ways suited to their particular disciplines. However, researchers and educators focus on four primary disciplines when it comes to informatics for health professionals: bioinformatics or medical informatics, nursing informatics, public health informatics, and applied informatics.

Bioinformatics/Medical Informatics

The importance of informatics breakthroughs can be said to rival the creation of the microscope. In some form, researchers have incorporated informatics technology across virtually all biosciences. Research disciplines that have traditionally relied on basic data technologies pale in comparison to the potential created by the blending of informatics and technology.

This development is especially prevalent in genomics, where measurement innovations enable historical discoveries such as the ability to manipulate live genetic materials. In the past, for example, researchers would decode one human gene at a time. Today, however, they can measure all 20,000 – or more – genes at once, transforming the field from a theoretical research area to a discovery-rich discipline. Still, with this progress comes a sharp increase in the need for skilled statisticians to fully exploit the powerful capabilities made possible by informatics.

Nursing Informatics

Health care organizations have started to emphasize the importance of informatics technology skills among nurse leaders. Technology experts forecast that modern informatics will soon achieve status as a standard nursing tool. To date, the informatics discipline permeates a range of key areas, including the following.

  • Consumer health education
  • Digital communications
  • Health care software applications
  • Patient monitoring
  • Patient records
  • Research initiatives

As informatics standards become clearer and more organizations join forces, the medical field moves toward a unified dialogue; a timely development in a field undergoing radical change due to legislative demands for improved community health. In the midst of changes, informatics technology facilitates collaboration between nursing disciplines.

Public Health Informatics

Public health agencies use informatics technology to educate consumers about health issues, monitor community wellness, prepare for health and disaster emergencies, and prevent disease outbreaks. The enterprises use the information to improve wellness among specific groups, such as children, low-income individuals, drug users, etc.

The initiatives developed by public health officials seek to eliminate the source of problems, and might even involve managing consumer environments as opposed to direct treatments. Occasionally, agencies can analyze and share data using informatics technology such as biosurveillance, digital laboratory reporting, and outbreak prevention and intervention software. This capability results in enhanced agency knowledge, faster response time, and improved public health.

Applied Informatics

The applied informatics discipline harnesses the power of big data, converting massive amounts of disparate information into actionable suggestions. When used for informatics applications, big data technology saves valuable money, resources, and time.

Researchers using applied informatics turn theory into real-world solutions. Applied informatics specialists use big data technology to evaluate and solve issues ranging in scope from community to national groups. This discipline capitalizes on the widespread adoption of EHRs. Using informatics innovations, contemporary care providers find and exploit considerable value from massive stores of health information.

Informatics innovation represents only part of the solution for improving consumer health. As a result, care provider organizations need more analytics experts who specialize in health-related sciences and disciplines. In the meantime, health organizations will continue using informatics technology to improve and rewrite health narratives for U.S. consumers.

The Role of a Health Informatics Specialist

Health informatics specialists bring the concepts of information technology and health care together for the benefit of a health organization and its patients. Those in the role oversee the aspects that can digitally bind the patient-health care dynamic, such as maintaining EHRs, creating digital tools for patient management, and developing and overseeing patient billing tools.

Health informatics specialists can also use their data analysis skills to gather and study data from a diverse number of complex sources to discover vulnerabilities in a health care organization’s digital care delivery strategies. Once vulnerabilities are discovered, health informatics specialists can use their health care knowledge to formulate solutions to improve an organization’s data management processes. Ultimately, this could lead to an improved level of care.

Deliver the Future of Health Care Today

Informatics for health professionals is leading to dynamic changes that move the concept of health care delivery dramatically forward. Individuals who are prepared to excel in this marriage between health care and information technology are in a unique position to help shape this forward progress.

The Regis College online Master of Health Administration program provides individuals various pathways to pursue their goals in health informatics. As a dedicated leader of health administration education, Regis College welcomes ambition-driven, self-motivated professionals from all health care settings.

Gain special insight into health informatics as well as other key areas such as management, communications, and health policy through the Regis College online Master of Health Administration.

 

Recommended Readings

5 Skills Every Health Care Leader Needs

Leadership Strategies for Health Administrators

7 TED Talks for Health Care Leaders

Sources:

American Health Information Management Association

American Health Information Management Association, “Making Data Smart: Practical Informatics is Helping Transform Data into Health Intelligence, and Now Moving into Day-to-Day HIM Work”

PH525x Series – Biomedical Data Science

AMIA Annual Symposium Proceedings Archive, “Informatics Competencies for Nursing and Healthcare Leaders”

AMIA, Public Health Informatics

Healthleaders, “Telehealth Usage Rises with Increase of COVID-19 Cases”

JMIR mHealth and uHealth, “Back to the Future: Achieving Health Equity Through Health Informatics and Digital Health”