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Clinical Informatics Job Description

What is clinical informatics?

Clinical informatics is a challenging field that requires proficiency in computer science and information technology, as well as an understanding of clinical medicine and medical terminology.  Clinical informatics jobs entail the use of technological applications and computerized information tools to enhance, improve, or streamline the clinical practice of medicine.  

Health information administrators who work in the clinical informatics may engage in, or oversee others who engage in, a variety of tasks related to information gathering and data analysis, including data entry of patient information into electronic medical record databases; the use of algorithms to reconstruct CT and other images for diagnostic purposes; the analysis of existing data from past patients and medical situations to propose solutions for current problems or effective treatment plans for current patients.  Practitioners of clinical informatics are emerging as essential personnel in efforts to organize and interpret the vast array of data that pertains to the healthcare industry.  As the medical profession relies more and more on electronic record keeping and turns more frequently to data analysis as a means of solving dilemmas that arise in the context of patient diagnosis and treatment and institutional management, the demand for individuals who are trained in clinical informatics is growing.

Why is clinical informatics important?

Those who fill clinical informatics jobs provide an invaluable service to the healthcare industry as a whole, as well as to individual patients who seek out treatment from individual medical practitioners and healthcare institutions.  Clinical informatics provides effective means of recording, storing, and retrieving information that is vital to the smooth operation of healthcare institutions and to the effective treatment of patients.  Using clinical informatics, important vital information from patients’ charts, including blood pressure and heart rate, can be automatically inputted into electronic databases for easy retrieval and analysis.  Clinical informatics and the information tools on which it relies can help prevent the administration of conflicting or contraindicated drugs, inform doctors of a patient’s medical history, and provide vital information about patient allergies and sensitivities.  Information stored through these technological means can be quickly and efficiently shared between different health professionals in different departments or in different medical facilities located at great distances from one another.   This remote sharing of healthcare information is known as “telemedicine” and is one of the technological advances that has helped healthcare professionals diagnose and treat patients more quickly and effectively. 

Clinical information also allows medical practitioners and healthcare institutions to track and gauge their effectiveness and the efficiency of their use of resources.  By providing a comprehensive track record of an institution’s performance, clinical informaticists play a vital role in fostering improvements in the delivery of healthcare services at the individual level, as well as at the institutional and industry-wide levels.  Clinical informaticists provide essential and routine support to clinical medical practitioners.  Health information administrators who choose to take on clinical informatics jobs can be found working in hospitals, clinics, private medical practices, nursing homes, and any other healthcare facilities that engage in the practice of clinical medicine and the provision of direct patient care.

What degree is needed to work in the field of clinical informatics?

Generally, a health information administrator who specializes in clinical informatics needs a graduate degree—a master’s degree or higher—in health informatics.  Many institutions offer health informatics degrees, including degrees that can be earned online. Some graduate schools offer degrees in the specific field of clinical informatics, which is a slightly narrower area of study than health informatics as a whole.  However, a specialized degree in clinical informatics is not necessary; most health information management degree programs offer sufficient electives for students to both fulfill their degree programs and concentrate in clinical informatics at the same time.  Clinical informatics deals with patient care and the ramification of information and information processing on treatment and diagnosis of patients.  Therefore, those who wish to pursue a career in clinical informatics should choose a degree program that offers numerous courses related to patient care.  If an aspiring health information administrator who wishes to specialize in clinical informatics enrolls in a general health informatics program, he or she should make a point of taking any and all courses related to clinical care and other topics related to patient treatment. 

In addition, many graduate schools offer graduate certificate programs that take anywhere from one semester to two years to complete.  These certificate programs are designed for currently practicing clinicians who wish to expand their skills or shift their professional focus toward informatics.  These programs are meant for allied health professionals who already have extensive experience in patient care and the business side of the practice of medicine.

What kind of salary does a clinical informaticist make?

A health information administrator’s decision to specialize in clinical informatics can be a very lucrative one.  Health information administrators who specialize in clinical informatics make an average salary of $97,000 a year annually, which is 43% higher than the national average for all occupations.  However, salaries can vary greatly depending upon location and the type of facility in which a clinical informaticist works.  The increasing shift to electronic record keeping and the use of information systems to tailor diagnosis methods and treatment plans to individual patients will keep demand for clinical informaticists high for the foreseeable future.  This intense demand for these specialized informational and technological skills will help keep salaries for health information administrators specializing in clinical informatics at a high level going forward.

Health Information Management / Informatics Schools