What Exactly is Health Informatics?

by Nov 8, 2016Health Informatics Resources0 comments

health-informaticsHealth informatics can mean different things to different people depending on where you work in the healthcare spectrum. Is it someone that can build a database and manipulate data using programs like R and Stata? Yes, it is. Is it a person who has expertise implementing an electronic health record? Yes, it is. Does it mean someone who can look at reports and identify strategic and/or operational opportunities in the market? Yes, it does. Health informatics is a nascent field which is growing and being defined by each and every discipline that embraces it.

Historically those that have been in healthcare informatics have primarily been clinical personnel and focused on biomedical informatics. These designations were primarily held by physicians and nurses. The primary focus of these disciplines were to integrate technology into the clinical workflow. Even those programs are becoming specialized. Now specialties are designating their own niches in informatics.

Health Informatics Fields are Evolving

For example, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota has a Fellowship for Radiology Informatics, and the Oregon Health Science University offers a program in Pharmacy Informatics. Health informatics programs are also evolving and changing as the field grows. Some programs focus on the data analytics, some focus on the clinical applications, some focus on data governance and standards. So as the field grows so do the possibilities. Now you find health informatics professionals in every aspect of healthcare.

The beauty of the field being so new when compared to other careers in healthcare, health informatics is like the wild west of healthcare. Skills that have not been considered “core” to healthcare are now being adopted-the addition of having a designation in health informatics demonstrates you have obtained the knowledge you need to understand the language, environment, and trajectory of the healthcare market. One example would be a video game designer. Video game designers understand the concepts of how to get people hooked on games and providing some sort of emotional reward to the user.

Using Games to Improve Healthcare

angry birdsSo just like Candy Crush and Angry Birds, video game designers are being used to create apps for people to improve healthcare. Pete Etchells in his 2013 article “Three Ways Video Games Can Improve Health Care” discusses the benefits video games have brought to users. Examples in the article included:

  • Burn victims reported less pain when playing a game redirecting their focus from the pain to playing the game.
  • Autistic children used games to help with recognizing social cues like looking others in the eye.
  • Teens with cancer were more likely to keep up with their chemotherapy and antibiotic treatments after playing a game that helped them better understand cancer and treatments in an interactive way.

Game designers are becoming recognized as an important part of the healthcare delivery team. If you don’t believe me, read the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s position paper: Innovations in Games: Better Health and Healthcare.

Going Beyond Traditional Healthcare Roles

We have a population that is aging rapidly and technology can bring more efficiencies to the delivery system, help reduce costs, and assist in bringing evidenced based practices to the masses. With the ubiquitous use of technology in the rest of society, there are many opportunities for healthcare informatics professionals that go way beyond traditional roles.

How Do You Fit into the Health Informatics Field?

Do you have expertise in creating a grass roots movement? Augment your talents with a health informatics degree and help health insurance providers identify where and how to collect community level data to bring awareness to new treatments and accelerate new drugs being included in formulary lists.In the United States, we have 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, according to the Pew Research Center. What talents can you bring to healthcare to help this aging population?

Whatever talents you already bring to the table, saddle up your horse and join other health informatics professionals as we explore this wild new frontier.

– Written by Teresa Younkin

Teresa Younkin is an adjunct faculty member at UNE and brings her expertise to the program. She is a health advocate who has empowered communities and individuals to become actively involved with their health through access to health information. With over 19 years of experience, in both public and private sectors, Teresa has implemented strategic efforts in public understanding, development, adoption, and interoperability of health information technology.

As a recognized leader in the field of Patient Engagement, Teresa forged strong collaborative partnerships with hospital systems, individual physician practices, community organizations, and individual patients to provide a framework for ensuring engagement of all necessary partners in healthcare decisions.

Teresa has lectured nationally and internationally on topics of education and facilitation of Health Information Exchange, Electronic Health Records, and Personal Health Record portal development; workflow optimization and guidance for meeting Meaningful Use regulations; and development of relationships and creation of effective patient engagement campaigns. Source: LinkedIn 

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