What Is Health Informatics? (With Benefits and 5 Trends)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 23, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Health informatics is an evolving field that's allowing doctors and computer scientists to work together. These professionals are creating new ways to store and analyze data that health care systems collect. Learning more about health informatics, how this industry is developing, and the challenges it might face in the future can help you decide if it's a field you might like to pursue. In this article, we answer the question, "What is health informatics?", list its potential benefits, review its current trends, and discuss its prospects.

What is health informatics?

Learning the answer to, “What is health informatics?” can help you evaluate a career in the health care or information technology (IT) industry. Health informatics is the application of information and communication technologies to manage medical records and improve patient care. This means storing, organizing, analyzing, and communicating medical data between the different companies involved in the health care industry. Doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, insurance agents and representatives, and data analysts can all use health informatics to get a better understanding of a patient's health status.

For instance, this discipline allows a doctor to track a patient's medical history easily and share the information with other colleagues to determine the most effective course of treatment. In addition, an insurance agent can establish the best plan for a client, based on their health history and current condition.

Related: 10 Jobs You Can Get with an MBA in Health Care Management

Benefits of health informatics

Here are the advantages of this discipline:

Enhanced data storage

Health informatics works with electronic health records (EHRs), which means that facilities and professionals store patients' information in digital form. This requires the use of efficient cloud-based data warehouses and in-house data lakes that allow for quick and easy access. It also involves the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate processes and retrieve information from these warehouses in an accurate and timely manner.

Storing the data electronically enables AI systems to identify any variations in patient information quickly and shows who's responsible for any changes. Employing EHRs also avoids the need for physical records, which health-care facilities can lose or damage over time.

Related: What Are Data Warehouse Types? (With Benefits and Components)

Improved health-care services

Health-care professionals can benefit from using health informatics systems because they can consult with colleagues in real time to determine the best approach to treat a specific health condition. For instance, a physician in Vancouver can consult with a specialist in Toronto to discuss how to treat a patient with cardiomyopathy. In this case, the specialist can review the patient's data and also see their current condition in real time, which might allow them to make a more informed decision.

This can also prevent doctors from overlooking a patient's symptoms, repeating unsuccessful treatments, conducting unnecessary tests, and prescribing medications that may have failed to improve other patients' conditions.

Related: 15 Examples of Health Policy Jobs (With Salaries and Duties)

Reduced costs

Using AI technology, health care software, and cloud-based data storage can help institutions reduce costs, as these tools can avoid the use of human resources and reduce administrative tasks. This means that it can minimize errors in data entry, enhance quality control, and decrease the time spent on organizational activities, reducing delays in patient care. These tools can also help health-care facilities avoid building their own physical data-storage systems, which often require space, constant updates, and maintenance.

Supervised treatments

Having a system that can monitor and update a patient's medical records in real time allows health-care professionals to supervise a patient's progress and make necessary adjustments quickly. For instance, a nurse can monitor a patient's vital signs and compare them to previous records to determine whether they're improving or declining. In addition, a supervised health-care service can benefit patients who are recovering from surgery or are in the early stages of a chronic illness. This is possible because doctors and surgeons can track their progress and adjust their care plans accordingly without visiting the patient in person.

Related: What Is ADPIE and Its 5 Stages? (With Patient Benefits)

Increased health-care compliance

One of the most relevant benefits of health informatics is the ability to comply with federal and provincial regulations. This field helps government agencies study patients' data and monitor and enforce regulations on the provision of health care. This is possible because it allows them to oversee how hospitals and clinics are operating, treating patients, reporting adverse events, spending resources, and managing patients' data. Courts can also use this information to determine whether hospitals and clinics are meeting their legal obligations or if insurance companies are providing the applicable coverage.

Related: How to Become a Public Health Inspector in 4 Steps

5 health informatics trends

Here are five trends that might benefit the practice of medicine in the future:

1. Data analytics

This refers to the use of computer programs and statistical techniques to analyze data and obtain relevant information from it. Health informatics allows the use of data analytics to analyze large amounts of data and study the health of populations, the efficacy of treatments, and the impact of medical procedures.

For instance, data analytics helps analysts, doctors, statisticians, and government agencies to study the number of cases of diabetes in a certain area and allocate resources to treat other related diseases. They can also use this information to launch a campaign to increase diabetes awareness and promote healthy eating among the communities.

Related: A Guide to Secondary Analysis: What It Is and How to Do It

2. Genomics

This is the study of the genomes of all organisms, involving the analysis of DNA, ribonucleic acid, proteins, and metabolites. Genomics can benefit from health informatics because scientists and researchers can use the information to understand the genetic basis of diseases, viruses, and bacteria. They can use the data that health informatics stores to study how a population or an individual responds to a treatment or to find common patterns in the genome of different patients. These studies can help them develop new treatments for diseases and improve a patient's quality of life.

Related: What Does a Bioinformatician Do? And How to Become One

3. Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation of a 3D environment that users can interact with through a head-mounted display. This is especially useful in health informatics because doctors can employ it to assist with the diagnosis and treatment of patients. For instance, AI technology can retrieve information from databases and manipulate the environment to recreate 3D images of bones and organs.

Doctors can also use VR to practise medical procedures, assess the risks associated with them, and identify the most effective way to perform them. Some universities, research centres, and certifying bodies can use VR to perform examinations and assessments of residents and trainees.

Related: What Is Augmented Reality? (And How to Use It Effectively)

4. Interoperability

This allows different systems to communicate with each other, exchange patient information, access the same data, and make informed decisions based on this information. Interoperability is the core of health informatics. This is because various systems from different parties can use the same data to create a more efficient and effective health-care system.

For instance, a traumatologist can use the information provided by a surgeon to determine the most effective treatment plan for a patient who has undergone knee surgery. A pharmacist can use this data to prepare the drug dosage for the individual. In addition, a researcher can use the information to create a study on the most successful treatment for patients with the same injury.

Related: A Guide to Interoperability in Health Care (With Benefits)

5. Cyber security

This refers to the use of computer programs and hardware to protect against and respond to cybersecurity threats. As health informatics refers to the use of digital data, it's important to apply cybersecurity principles and create a secure health information exchange. This is necessary to protect patient data and the confidentiality and integrity of health information systems. Specialists can implement firewalls, antivirus software, and anti-malware apps and use encryption to protect data from cybercrime and attacks.

Related: Top 10 Cyber Security Certifications to Help Your Career

What is the future of health informatics?

You can define the future of health informatics as one of continuous change and innovation. This is because different information technology (IT) fields are merging and interacting with each other to create and explore new ways to use the information from the health-care industry. For instance, IT professionals are teaching physicians and surgeons to use robotics to conduct surgeries and increase their accuracy.

There's also an increasing trend to use AI models to predict and prevent diseases, such as viruses and certain types of cancer. This means that health informatics is becoming a more multidisciplinary field that's requiring a wide range of professionals with different types of skills and knowledge. Universities are also offering new courses in health informatics to prepare students for future job positions in this industry. For instance, some educational institutions in various provinces offer a Master's Degree in Health Informatics and Information Management.

Related: Health Informatics Jobs (With Definition and Skills)

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