Medical informatics is found at the intersection of healthcare and technology. It is where skills in both medical and computer sciences come together in an effort to improve healthcare and patient outcomes. Professionals in this hybrid field draw on expertise from both disciplines to put technology to its best use in patient care, clinical and research settings.
Types of Work in Medical Informatics
Medical informatics professionals are tasked with using information technology to its greatest advantage in the healthcare industry. This means they are responsible for such tasks as:
- Creating, maintaining or facilitating new ways for medical facilities and practices to keep electronic health records (EHR),
- Improving communication between healthcare providers and facilities to ensure the best patient outcomes,
- Storing, managing and analyzing data for research,
- Assisting with complex, technology-dependent research, such as that involved in human genome sequencing.
Specialties in the field of medical informatics
Medical and computer science professionals who wish to transition into this field with a master’s or doctoral degree and students heading straight into this arena will find a number of specialties exist. They include:
- Bioinformatics: Practitioners in this specialty are concerned with storing, retrieving, sharing and helping analyze biomedical information for research and/or patient care. Subspecialties include chemical, nursing and dental informatics.
- Public health informatics: This specialty involves the use of technology to guide how the public learns about health and health care while also ensuring access to the latest medical research. Professionals also ensure public health practices have access to the information they need.
- Organizational informatics: The focus here is ensuring a smooth flow of communication within a healthcare organization.
- Social informatics: These specialists study the social aspects of computer science while gaining insights into how information technology affects social environments and how social environments affect information technology.
- Clinical informatics: This is the application of informatics and information technology for clinical research and patient care. Professionals leverage information technology for medical education, patient education and students, among others.
Careers in Medical Informatics
The medical informatics field is growing with positions in a variety of settings. Job titles related to the field may include:
- Chief Medical Information Officer: This is a top level management position that involves ensuring an organization’s IT systems are adequately designed to meet clinical, patient and communication requirements. Professionals in this position design and apply EHR software and applications, convert and analyze medical data, insure quality of care across multiple information systems and conduct data analytics for research purposes.
- Medical Informatics Director: Similar to a chief medical information officer, a director is responsible for the accuracy and effectiveness of management reporting functions, actuarial management and information technology strategy. They also manage the analysis and presentation of data in a timely, accurate, user-friendly format, among other duties.
- Clinical Informatics Specialist: These specialists provide hands-on support and project management for the implementation and use of electronic medical record software to document patient care. This specialty is often pursued by existing medical professionals with an affinity for technology. Many nurses, for example, are transitioning into this role by taking part in graduate-level informatics programs.
- Health Analytics Clinical Practitioner Manager: This position calls on professionals to design, implement and deploy packaged software solutions for health and public services industry businesses. This position may involve employment with a software developer to ensure its solutions work appropriately for medical practitioners in the field.
Medical informatics job growth is predicted at about 21% through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That agency doesn’t break out potential earnings, but the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) estimates mid-range salaries for health informatics consultants in the upper $80,000s. Those in management circles can see salaries climb as high as $200,000.
Those interested in medical informatics are urged to conduct their own research. Job availability and salaries may vary based on position, employer and geographical location.