Health informatics and health information management, although quite distinct professions, often are perceived as one set of duties with two names.
After all, titles change often in modern healthcare, and judging from their wording, both work with data to improve healthcare results. The differences, though, outweigh the similarities, and show that while often confusing, health informatics and health information management are separate, but often overlapping, professions.
For example, while the job of health informatics is a product of healthcare’s data and digital revolutions, health information managers deal with information regardless of format. In other words, they may be deciphering a doctor’s scribbles right alongside a batch of digital patient files.
To simplify, you could say that health informatics is concerned with managing the database, while health information management is concerned with managing the data.
What Do Health Informatics Professionals Do?
Health informatics is often described as the intersection of computer science, information science and healthcare, meaning that informatics professionals work with both the processes and the tools used to record, store and analyze healthcare information.
Health informatics professionals devise, create and maintain the systems that allow that information to travel, as well as the security systems that inhibit that flow at the sign of danger.
Some informaticists are more directly involved in patient care, analyzing a patient’s data and images which clinicians use to plan a patient’s treatment.
According to job search site Monster, job titles in the health informatics field can include:
- Medical and health services manager: Also known as a healthcare executive, healthcare administrator or health information manager, these professionals oversee an organization’s medical and health services whether it’s for a large facility, a department or a small medical practice.
- Health informatics specialist: Implementing and monitoring technology in a medical facility is the primary duty of this profession.
- Clinical informatics specialist: Duties include devising processes and enhancing procedures as well as documenting them for the medical staff, plus working with the systems that digitize patient and medical records.
- Clinical analyst: Duties of this position include evaluating healthcare and patient data with the aim of improving both the workflow and the facility’s clinical information systems.
- Clinical informatics manager: This informatics professional oversees daily operations of a health facility’s clinical information systems.
What Do Health Information Management Professionals Do?
Health information management is chiefly concerned with organizing and managing patient data contained in the medical record. HIM professionals must make sure patient health records are complete and accurate and provide access to records to staff and others while protecting the privacy and security of patient health information.
According to a blog post from Capterra, a free web service aimed at helping businesses find the right software solutions, health information management professionals gather, analyze and secure data aimed at improving patient outcomes.
HIM techs often work with nurses and other hospital staff, reviewing patient records to make sure they are accurate and as updated as possible.
HIM professionals also can be in charge of access to records when they are requested for insurance cases, lawsuits and other purposes.
Typical HIM duties may include the following:
- Basic medical coding: Correct coding is essential both for billing and for patient care. Codes ensure that providers are reimbursed by insurers and government outfits such as Medicaid and Medicare.
- Medical transcription: HIM professionals sometimes transcribe dictation from clinicians on vital information such as patient medical history and consultation reports.
- Staff support: This includes communicating requested patient information to physicians, as well as reviewing records to ensure compliance with government and private insurers’ requirements.
- Assembling and maintaining medical records: Medical records must be assembled from clinicians’ notes as well as information for reimbursement. Records also must be maintained in a manner that keeps them secure as well as accessible – including paper records as well as digital.
- Release of information: Requests for the release of medical records must be judged for their appropriateness and legality. If the request is granted, HIM professionals are responsible for gathering and transmitting the information.
- Maintaining confidentiality: Medical records must be stored or disposed of in a specific manner.
Required Skills and Knowledge
Health information management careers typically require education or experience with medical records management, coding and billing and regulatory requirements. Information technology knowledge, particularly involving electronic health records is also often required. HIM careers may also require familiarity with medical terminology, medications and basic anatomy and physiology.
Those who are looking for a career in health informatics can benefit from some of the same core skills and knowledge needed for HIM careers. However, HI roles place less emphasis on coding, billing and regulations and a greater emphasis on information analysis and organization and knowledge of system infrastructure design and networking as well as programming skills. HI careers often also require familiarity with clinical guidelines and applications within specialty areas such as nursing, clinical care, public health and biomedical research.
Because HI positions tend to require highly specialized knowledge and an advanced skill set, health informatics professionals often have a Master’s of Science in Health Informatics or a Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics.