Health informatics
Health informatics professionals are called upon to develop and implement new methods of cataloging patient records and systems.

Are you interested in working in healthcare in a supportive, administrative role? Would you like to combine your interest in healthcare with an interest and skill in technology and data systems? Do you like the idea of working in a new and relevant field that facilitates the workings of healthcare organizations of all sizes? If so, you may want to consider a career in health informatics (HI).

Health informatics professionals are called upon to develop and implement new methods of cataloging patient records and systems. As healthcare evolves to incorporate modern methods of keeping track of patient data, increasing numbers of healthcare facilities are recognizing the need of dedicated professionals who understand both data systems and medical policies and procedures. An exciting, innovative field grants opportunities to work with multiple types of departments and people on a daily basis, and it may appeal to those who would like more variety in their working life than affiliating with a single healthcare department can provide.

What do health informatics professionals typically do?

Health informatics is primarily an administrative support profession, and professionals are tasked with developing, maintaining and ultimately facilitating the usage of various medical records systems for the healthcare organization to which they are assigned. A HI professional might expect, for instance, to interact with other healthcare administrators to provide access to data to be used in policy making. It is also typical to see them working closely with IT staff to develop and implement computer records.

While professionals do work in a healthcare setting, it is not common that they would have direct interactions with patients in a caregiving setting. At times, however, a health informatics professional might interact with patients in order to facilitate the collection of records and other data.

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Where do health informatics professionals work?

Health informatics professionals have opportunities to work in a variety of medical settings, ranging from local medical offices to larger hospitals and administrative organizations. In any environment that maintains current medical records, health informatics professionals may be employed to update systems and facilitate record keeping for nurses, doctors, pharmacists and management staff.

The hours that a HI professional would be expected to work may depend on the type of organization with which they are affiliated. If employed by a hospital that provides 24-hour care, professionals may be required to work with other staff members during nights, weekends, or holidays. For smaller organizations, however, one may expect a typical daytime work schedule.

Job outlook and salary potential.

Health informatics is a relatively new field, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has not yet published specific growth predictions for the coming years. The BLS does, however, expect a 22 percent growth rate for health and medical service workers in general and a 21 percent growth rate for medical records and health information technicians. Modern healthcare facilities require modern patient records systems, and an ongoing digitalization of patient records is expected to drive more healthcare organizations to employ dedicated information professionals.

At this point, the BLS has also not recorded average salary information for health informatics professionals. However, a survey by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) in 2010 found salaries varying significantly by work setting and position level, with an average salary of approximately $45,000 for coding professionals and salaries as high as $100,000 for director positions in consulting or integrated healthcare settings.

What education or training is required?

As health informatics is such a new field, there are not yet many degree programs in place for those who wish to study health informatics in a university setting. A master’s degree in health informatics or health information technology can be a great way to break into the field, but each program may have varying requirements on what it is they are looking for in terms of bachelor’s degree coursework. As the field continues to grow, however, we will likely see an increase in the number of medical schools offering masters level programs.