What Is a Clinical Informatics Specialist? (With Duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 6, 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.

Healthcare organizations require safe systems to enable their personnel to share health data, perform their job duties, keep records of all their activities, and track their medical procedures. Professionals working in the clinical informatics field can help create and maintain these systems, improve the overall quality of care, and enable healthcare professionals to work more efficiently. Learning more about a clinical informatics specialist's duties and responsibilities can help you assess this career path and evaluate if it's the right profession for you.

In this article, we answer "What is a clinical informatics specialist?", explain how to become a successful one, and list various skills these professionals might use in their work.

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What is a clinical informatics specialist?

Knowing the answer to, "What is a clinical informatics specialist?" can help you better understand their work environment, daily tasks, and the career path they take. A clinical informatics specialist is a professional with proficiency in the information technology (IT) field and knowledge of the healthcare industry. These specialists usually help healthcare organizations collect, store, manage, and protect health data, such as personal medical information, patient records, and medical images.

They can do this by installing IT systems designed to manage data and support health care delivery. These professionals can also help physicians, nurses, hospital administrators, patient advocates, and therapists to use IT systems to enter, review, and retrieve data. Their typical work environment might include hospitals, doctors' offices, clinics, nursing homes, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and IT departments in healthcare organizations. Here are other responsibilities these professionals might perform:

Improving workflow processes

Clinical informatics specialists can design IT systems to help healthcare organizations monitor the medical procedures patients undergo and track their progress. They can do this by allowing systems to show the order and date of procedures and exams, so physicians and nurses can easily recognize what other tasks are pending. They can also use this information to avoid repeating medical tests and discard approaches that haven't shown positive results. This IT system feature can improve workflow processes, lead to improved patient outcomes, and help healthcare organizations save resources and time.

Related: What Is Workflow Diagramming? (With Benefits and Steps)

Optimizing healthcare IT systems

These specialists can improve and enhance healthcare IT systems by adding new features and improving existing ones. They can do this based on the organization's needs, specialty, budget, and existing IT resources. For instance, if an organization offers vaccination services to its patients, the clinical informatics specialist can add vaccination reminders to the system or calendars to facilitate scheduling appointments. These specialists can also integrate various systems to allow healthcare professionals to access data from more than one source. By doing this, physicians, medical researchers, and pharmaceutical companies can easily share advances, findings, and new developments.

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Troubleshooting systems and databases

When a healthcare IT system is failing or showing error messages, clinical informatics specialists can evaluate it, identify the software or hardware issue, and reestablish its functionality. These specialists can use their proficiency in programming languages, operating systems, and devices to troubleshoot a problem. They can also asses the organization's databases to determine any communication errors between the databases and the health care system.

Sometimes, these professionals work alongside database administrators and software engineers to determine if the error refers to a lack of storage space or a problem with the computer program. Clinical informatics specialists can also use their knowledge of the healthcare industry to determine if a database is receiving all the data related to a particular test or procedure.

Related: What Is a Database Server? (Tips, FAQs, and Examples)

Ensuring security throughout IT systems

As it's imperative for healthcare organizations to keep their patient's information secure and confidential, clinical informatics specialists can implement cybersecurity measures to protect data. This means implementing firewalls, encrypting data, maintaining regular backups, and installing malware protection. These measures can help prevent breaches of sensitive patient data, help healthcare organizations meet compliance requirements, and increase their data security.

Clinical informatics specialists can also develop a disaster recovery plan, which comprises a protocol with all the steps an organization might follow in case of a breach. This plan can help the organization respond quickly to a breach, mitigate its impact, and recover control over its data. To do this, these specialists can work alongside cybersecurity specialists, white hat hackers, legal experts, and database administrators.

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Installing and testing hardware and software

When building a healthcare organization's telecommunication network, it's necessary for clinical informatics specialists to install the required hardware and software. This might include hardware such as modems, bridges, gateways, hubs, repeaters, interface controllers, and terminal servers. It might also include software such as databases, customer relationship management programs, web servers, web browsers, and video teleconferencing software. They can perform tests on all these systems to ensure they're working correctly.

Related: What Is Usability Testing and Who Can Benefit from It?

How to become a clinical informatics specialist

Here are several steps you can follow if you want to pursue a career as a clinical informatics specialist:

1. Get an undergraduate degree

Although some employers only ask for undergraduate degrees in IT, such as a bachelor's degree in IT systems, cybersecurity, or computer science and digitization, it's crucial to have a background in health care. For instance, a bachelor's degree in health information management can help you develop the proficiency you need in this industry. To do this, you can look for programs at a university and select one that suits your interests and professional goals.

You can also enter a master's program in health informatics to enhance your skills in this professional area and better understand the healthcare field. Make sure to pay attention to the curriculum and coursework of the program so you can make an informed decision.

Related: How to Get into IT (With Tips to Build Your IT Career)

2. Get a relevant certification

Although it's not mandatory, it's beneficial for you to earn some certifications in health care and IT to validate and demonstrate your knowledge of both fields. For instance, you might benefit from earning certifications such as Certified Health Information Management (CHIM) and Certified Terminology Standards Specialists (CTSS). These certification programs can help you develop your knowledge of medical terminology and procedures. You can also benefit from getting certifications in database management and network security.

Related: 11 Popular IT Certifications to Advance in Your Career

3. Apply for a position

Finally, it's important to look for a job position where you can use your expertise and educational background to help a health organization improve its processes and patient care. To do this, evaluate the opportunities available within hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and government agencies. Then you can write your resume and cover letter and apply for a clinical informatics specialist position.

You can look for those positions on job boards and provincial government job agencies. If you advance in the hiring process, it's important for you to prepare for the job interview and demonstrate your knowledge in cybersecurity, data management, and data analytics. By doing this, you can increase your chances of receiving a job offer.

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Essential skills for clinical informatics specialists

Here are some essential skills these specialists might use in their roles:

  • Proficiency in telecommunications: Understanding how a telecommunication network works and the devices it might require can help clinical informatics specialists secure healthcare IT systems and databases. This includes using routers, switches, wireless devices, fibre optic cables, IP addresses, and passwords.

  • Debugging: To be able to identify and fix any bugs or errors in a program's source codes, it's necessary for these professionals to master various debugging techniques. This includes learning programming languages, using debuggers, and constantly reviewing source codes for potential errors.

  • Proficiency with operating systems: These informatics specialists might require using different operating systems that manufacturers and service providers have created. To gain these skills, it's beneficial for them to take online courses and familiarize themselves with all the different types of operating systems available in the market.

  • Time management and multitasking skills: As they troubleshoot IT systems, maintain databases, and train health care professionals, these specialists need excellent time management and multitasking skills to perform all their duties. They can establish ticket systems to attend to customers' requests and coworkers' emergencies.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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