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Health Informatics — Taking a closer look at the future of health information management and analysis.
By Bonnie Walker, allied health world contributing writer
Published: October, 15 2010
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The field of health information management may involve the application of health informatics also known as healthcare informatics and medical informatics.
This involves the use of technological tools to collect, record, store, retrieve, distribute, and analyze bio-medical and healthcare-related data. Health information administrators (HIAs) oversee the handling of this data with the goal of optimizing its availability to all healthcare professionals for the purpose of medical decision making and administrative problem solving. Health informatics as a discipline lies at the intersection of medicine and computer technology, and a position as a health information administrator requires proficiency in the areas of both healthcare management and information science. Health information administrators are sometimes also referred to as health information managers.
Health information administrators may play a crucial role in assembling medical knowledge and medical evidence. The data and analyses they provide serve as important tools in many areas of healthcare delivery and medical practice, including patient care, long-term treatment planning, medical research, the training of healthcare professionals, organizational efficiency and improvement, reimbursement of medical claims, and formulation of medical and healthcare policy. The field of health informatics entails the deployment of a wide range of information tools, including not only computer systems, but also clinical guidelines, medical records, and other communication and information systems.
Successful health information administrators must have a keen understanding of existing information technologies and systems for collecting, recording, storing, and analyzing data. However, they must also be aware of the impact that technology has on patients and their families, as well as the delivery of healthcare services and the medical field as a whole. They must exercise sufficient flexibility to adapt to changing demands and situations within the healthcare field and individual healthcare facilities. In addition, they must keep themselves abreast of new developments that emerge in the field of information technology, which is constantly evolving and advancing.
What specializations or sub-fields exist within the field of health informatics?
Health information administrators may specialize in a number of different fields, including clinical informatics, bioinformatics, dental informatics, pharmaceutical informatics, and public health informatics.
- Clinical Informatics: Health information administrators who specialize in clinical informatics with information tools and systems that are used in and facilitate the clinical practice of medicine and related healthcare fields. Their duties may encompass data entry and retrieval; medical imaging and data display; and medical decision support. Clinical health information administrators may work in small or large medical practices, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and other institutions whose purpose is the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients.
- Bioinformatics: Health information administrators who work in the field of bioinformatics use information tools, including computer technology and statistical databases and analytics, to study molecular biology. Bioinformatics is a cutting-edge specialty within health informatics as it has direct applications to genetic engineering, as well as genomics projects such as DNA sequencing and the decoding of the human genome. Bioinformaticists generally work in laboratories and other research settings rather than in departments or facilities where care is provided directly to patients.
- Dental Informatics: Dental informatics entails the application of computer technology and other information tools and systems to the practice and administration of dentistry and dental care. Health information administrators who specialize in dental informatics play a key role in improving and facilitating patient care, advancing dental research, and ensuring the smooth functioning of dental practices. Dental health informaticists usually work in small or large dental, orthodontal, or endodontal practices, although some may hold positions in general healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics.
- Pharmaceutical Informatics: Health information administrators who concentrate their efforts in pharmaceutical informatics play a key role in ensuring patient safety and facilitating positive health outcomes through pharmacological treatment. Pharmaceutical informaticists use information tools and systems to analyze data for the purpose of optimizing medication selection, detecting medication interactions, and gauging treatment effectiveness.
- Public Health Informatics: Public health informatics involves the applied use of information tools and computer technology to public health research and the formulation of public health policy. Health information administrators specializing in public health informatics often work for governmental agencies at the federal, state, and municipal levels or at academic and research institutions. They engage in the collection and analysis of public health statistics and other public health data.
Health Information Management / Informatics Schools
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