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Top 9 Things to Know About Healthcare Informatics

The future is looking bright for the healthcare informatics industry.

In this Top Nine Installment, ADVANCE contributor Debra Wolf highlights some of the most important things to know about the healthcare informatics industry.

1. When People Say "Informatics," They Mean "Healthcare Informatics."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines it as the interdisciplinary study of the design, development, adoption and application of IT-based innovations in healthcare services delivery, management and planning. Healthcare informatics combines the management of health information, the integration and use of technology to gather, manipulate and share data, the integration of humanistic needs to manipulate the technology/data to make decisions regarding individual and organizational needs and finally, the strategic visionary leader to see the value and impact healthcare informatics has on patient and organizational outcomes.   

2. You May Ask, "Why Healthcare Informatics?"
The use of technology is exploding within the healthcare arena. Regardless of which health facility or organization one encounters, the use of technology embraces not only the health professional but the patient/consumer as well. For example, technology such as computerized health records, electronic scales, blood pressure device, sonogram machines; monitors, EKGs, x-trays and electronic thermometers are being used to collect data/information which is being transmitted directly to a database system. Virtual technology is also growing at an even faster pace than health professionals can keep up with. For example, advances through use of telemedicine is aiding specialists in one part of the state or country help care for individuals in need of their services in other parts of the state or country without leaving their personal office/facility. Telemedicine is also being used by remote emergency responders to report directly to hospitals on patients' condition prior to transporting to facility. Finally, the use of social media such as blogs, Facebook, YouTube and mobile apps is penetrating the world, helping individuals better understand their conditions or offering ways of improving one's health status.

3. You're Glad it Exists.
Healthcare Informatics"Combining technology, data and the wisdom of health professionals helps individuals make much better decisions. Leaders in healthcare informatics who understand how to integrate technology successfully, how to manage and capture data via technology for report analysis, how to prepare for change and how to redesign workflow using technology are critical for the success of any organization looking to integrate technology into a healthcare setting," says Chatham University Healthcare Informatics Coordinator Debra M. Wolf, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN.

4. It's Big and Getting Bigger.
One of the primary goals of the Affordable Care Act is to improve healthcare through technology, and regardless of what happens with a new administration, that isn't likely to change anytime soon.

5. Which Means: $$$$$.
As of 2015, the overall average salary for health IT professionals was $111,387.52, according to an annual compensation survey by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. The average salary for IT professionals across all industries was much lower, at $85,460 according to glassdoor.com. BestMedicalDegrees.com cited health information managers as number 10 in its list of 50 Top Paying Healthcare Careers.

6. And: Jobs.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow 17% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

7. There are a Ton of Places Where You Can Work.
"Informatics plays a critical role within every healthcare organization, facility and profession," says Chatham University's Wolf. Here's just a sample of the types of places that hire informatics specialists: hospitals, rehab centers, private healthcare practices, software companies, healthcare consulting companies, biopharmaceutical companies, medical device/technology companies, healthcare associations, insurance companies and research laboratories. As a Master prepared graduate in healthcare informatics, one has the skills to understand the lifecycle of technology; how to strategically plan, implement and evaluate a project involving technology; how to manage, retrieve and analyze data for analysis; and to work with interprofessionals within a healthcare setting to meet their daily needs regarding use of technology and need for data to make decisions.

8. You Can Change the World.
In addition to opportunities in corporate and clinical settings, you can also improve healthcare on a wider scale, such as through developing or managing public health information or surveillance programs, and helping to monitor, control and prevent the occurrence of diseases across the globe in public health organizations, government and non-governmental agencies. Individuals with degrees in healthcare informatics are positioned to influence the future of how healthcare is delivered and managed; influence how individuals manage their chronic conditions; and influence how consumers and health professionals are empowered to work collaboratively to promote health and wellness for all.

9. It's a Remarkably Accessible Field to Enter.
One great thing about informatics is that it's a field that's approachable from both healthcare and business sides -- so a background in either is a big help. Here's a short list of the types of professionals who might find it an asset:

•        Respiratory therapists

•        Social workers

•        Physicians

•        Occupational therapists

•        Physical therapists

•        Physician assistants

•        Nutritionists

•        Business personnel

•        Human resources staff

•        Administrative managers

•        Laboratory staff

•        Radiology technicians/staff

•        Accounting/financial managers

•        IT analysts, managers, software developers, etc.

•        Nurses of all specialties

Debra Wolf, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN is an associate professor of nursing at Chatham University and an independent healthcare informatics consultant. Wolf has over 35 years of experience within the healthcare arena. Her area of expertise focuses on integrating technology into a healthcare setting focusing on change management and process redesign.

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