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What Health Informatics Isn’t

With all of the buzz around health informatics (HI), you may be wondering exactly what the profession entails. You’re not alone. There are widespread misconceptions about what health informatics is and what responsibilities HI professionals are typically tasked with. This article highlights three such misconceptions and reveals the truth about them.

  1. “Health informatics professionals are the people at a healthcare facility who fix your computer.”

    The first misconception is that professionals who work in health informatics are those who are called to provide tech support. Tech support — helping users diagnose and solve problems with their computers — is rather the responsibility of IT and ITSM professionals.

    IT Service Management (ITSM) professionals are those who design and maintain system infrastructures, troubleshoot tech problems and ensure that a business has the IT capacity to function successfully in its industry.

    Health informatics professionals, however, are those who collect and analyze patient data to support the work of healthcare workers and managers. The main objective is to use data to improve patient care. HI professionals work with other specialists in a medical setting to assess how data is gathered, stored and utilized in order to provide the best possible service to those who seek medical care.

  2. “Health informatics professionals are involved in clinical decision making.”

    Patient care involves numerous critical decisions to be made at various stages depending on the diagnosis of the patient. Clinical decisions are made by doctors, nurses, therapists and other caregivers to assess how and when a patient needs a particular form of treatment.

    Health informatics professionals are not involved in the clinical decision-making process. Rather, it is important to distinguish between clinical decision making and clinical decision support. It is decision support, not decision making, which falls within the area of responsibility of HI professionals.

    HI professionals help provide the data and other information that allow decision-makers to do their jobs. By analyzing and organizing information and drawing key insights, HI professionals facilitate the work of the clinicians who are tasked with the various decisions of modern patient care.

  3. “Health informatics and health information management are the same thing.”

    This misconception is certainly understandable. At first glance, health informatics (HI) and health information management (HIM) professionals appear to have the same job responsibilities. It is true that both HI and HIM professionals, for example, deal with patient data in a medical setting. The distinction, however, is in how they deal with this data.

    HIM professionals focus more on the technical side of things, such as the means that data is collected and stored within database programs across the healthcare system. HIM professionals also ensure that the data-collection process is modernized and meets government standards.

    HI professionals, however, focus on how this information is used and understood. While it is true that HI professionals do consider how data is collected, the focus is less on the technical side of things and more on how medical professionals interact with patients to ensure up-to-date medical records.

Is Health Informatics Right For You?

The bright outlook of an HI career may make it particularly appealing to students interested in its unique combination of data analysis and interacting with medical professionals. While there is a strong technical component, this is not an exclusively technical career. Nor is it a clinical career in the sense of requiring patient-care decisions. Rather, HI is an important and growing support career that allows caregivers to do their jobs armed with the most accurate and up-to-date patient information possible.

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