Dr. Athanasios Tsalatsanis is co-director of USF Health’s health informatics programs. He sat down with us to discuss the state of the health informatics field and what an health informatics education can do for current healthcare workers.
How would you say health informatics has made information delivery more effective and/or reliable?
Health informatics refers to the marriage between information and computer sciences to facilitate every aspect of healthcare delivery spanning from clinical practice and research to learning and administration. Health informatics has provided systematic ways of using technology and methods to collect, manage and disseminate health related information to improve patient care. These methods are the result of significant research on data management, data security and communication, data analysis, decision support, user interfaces etc. Therefore, health informatics combines everything we know on, let’s say, how to secure and transmit data; or, what is the most efficient way of collecting data; or even, what kind of data we need to make medical decisions; to effectively and reliably support information delivery for daily operations.
With the 2014 federal mandate in mind, how do you think the career field of health informatics will grow?
The 2014 federal mandate states that by the end of 2014 all medical records in the United States must be converted into an electronic format. Obviously, this implies that funding is and will be allocated to converting paper based records to electronic records. This also implies that more organizations will require the expertise of health informaticians to assist in their daily operations, thus creating employment opportunities. Larger organizations will create or expand departments of Information Systems to facilitate all data and technology requirements. The vast amount of data that will be created will open new avenues for research aiming at improving patient care and at defining new needs and priorities in technology and clinical practice. In addition, more organizations are anticipated to realize the importance of tele-medicine applications such as tele-consultation and tele-surgery, as well as mobile health applications for patient monitoring and disease management.
For job searchers, medical professionals, college students and those approaching graduation, would you agree health informatics training will substantially help them find immediate employment?
The demand for health informaticians is definitely growing. Many health related organizations and research institutions have not completely realized the importance of health informatics in the effective and efficient delivery of healthcare. However, as the need grows, more and more universities have started including in their curricula health informatics programs specifically designed to cover the requirements of particular disciplines such as nursing and public health. I do believe the need is out there and I certainly agree that health informatics competency will be soon required by most healthcare organizations. Therefore, health informatics training will undoubtedly aid in assisting students and medical professionals in finding immediate employment.
From a career standpoint, for exhausted RN’s and IT professionals, how would you describe the benefits of working in the field of health informatics?
Health informatics provides a new beginning to fatigued RNs and IT professionals seeking to start a different career. RNs have substantial knowledge of the processes involved in the nursing profession and lack the IT skills to enable them to develop systems to support nursing informatics. On the other hand, IT professionals have the technological expertise required to develop systems but lack the health related content. Health informatics will provide both RNs and IT professionals with an opportunity to use the knowledge they acquired through their profession to excel in a different career.