What Is Health Informatics?

portrait of Juliann Scholl, Ph.D
by Juliann Scholl, Ph.D
Published on November 29, 2021

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What Is Health Informatics?

What Is Health Informatics? | Job Demand and Salary | Careers in Health Informatics | How Do I Get Into Health Informatics? | How Long Does It Take? | The Future of Health Informatics | Is Health Informatics Right for Me? | FAQs


Health informatics combines healthcare and information technology (IT). The goal is to maximize medical outcomes for patients and efficiency at the organizational level.

Learners in health informatics programs study computer science, healthcare principles, and information science. People who enjoy analytical tasks, critical thinking, and problem-solving may find that health informatics is a rewarding career path.

Professionals with health informatics backgrounds pursue work in data analytics, higher education, healthcare administration, information systems management, and other occupations.

The aging U.S. population and the need to replace retiring workers will likely provide growing opportunities for job seekers. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 32% job growth for medical and health services managers between 2020 and 2030.

What Is Health Informatics?

Health informatics represents interdisciplinary approaches to using information technology and medical information. The goal is to streamline and improve medical outcomes and maintain accurate health records. Individuals in this field assist in healthcare delivery by analyzing, classifying, and managing health data. Health informaticists also ensure that nurses, doctors, and other providers can access and retrieve data quickly.

Health informaticists rely on their computer science expertise to verify and update patient records according to regulations. They also review and organize data, employ classification codes for insurance, and maintain patient confidentiality.

What Is the Job Demand and Salary for Health Informatics?

According to the BLS, about 416,400 professionals work in health informatics, as of 2020. The BLS projects that employment in this multidisciplinary field will increase 9% between 2020-2030. That compares to a projected 8% growth for all occupations. Health informatics remains relatively young, with job prospects likely to grow in the coming years.

Expanding job opportunities allow professionals with health informatics backgrounds to work in various settings, such as hospitals, medical laboratories, pharmaceutical manufacturing, physician offices, and outpatient clinics.

According to the BLS, health informaticists across all occupations earn a median annual salary of $51,840, as of May 2020. The highest 10% earn more than $105,690. Health informaticists in the federal government and scientific and technical services earn higher wages than those working in educational institutions and physicians' offices.

What Careers Are There in Health Informatics?

5 Popular Health Informatics Jobs

Medical Records or Health Information Specialists

Median Annual Salary (as of 2020): $45,240

Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 9%

Medical records specialists typically use their knowledge of data software to organize, catalog, code, and manage various types of medical information. These professionals maintain patients' health records and health databases to keep them up to date and accurate. An associate degree or higher may be required for some positions.


Computer and Information Research Scientist

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $126,830

Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 22%

As with research scientists in other disciplines, health informatics researchers conduct original research studies and may report their findings in journals and at conferences. Health informatics researchers design and test new uses for technology in the healthcare industry. While some research scientists earn master's degrees, promotion to a senior research scientist might require a doctoral degree.


Computer and Information Systems Manager

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $151,150

Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 11%

Some of these professionals go by the title of IT managers. They identify problems with an organization's information systems and find ways to streamline information analysis, sharing, and transfer. These managers also plan and direct all computer-based functions, reduce errors and costs, and determine ways to improve the organization's IT systems.


Medical and Health Services Manager

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $104,280

Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 32%

A bachelor's degree in health informatics usually qualifies someone to work as a medical and health services manager. They also may go by the title of healthcare executive. They typically oversee and plan services for a department or entire facility. These professionals must remain knowledgeable of technology-related and legal changes in the health informatics field.


Clinical Informatics Specialist

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $51,840

Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 11%

Clinical informatics specialists manage software and hardware systems, oversee facility-wide computer-based changes, and resolve problems. These specialists possess skills in computer science and healthcare management. The job typically requires identifying and eliminating errors to reduce medical costs. Some employers prefer clinical informatics specialists with graduate degrees.


How Do I Get Into Health Informatics?

Most health informaticists need at least a two-year associate degree to prepare them with fundamental IT, healthcare, and administrative knowledge.

Pursuing a four-year health informatics degree can expand job prospects, especially for registered nurses (RNs) who want to transition into positions like clinical nurse leaders or nurse informaticists. Professionals with more defined career or leadership goals may decide to pursue a master's or doctorate in health informatics.

People interested in health informatics careers typically need analytics, communication, and leadership skills. They should also be proficient in technology and stay abreast of technological changes. The best programs will also focus on integrity due to the sensitivity of the information in patient records.

Learners can supplement their formal education with fellowships or internships. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered students a chance to apply for a paid public health informatics fellowships. Many graduates of such programs can get on an accelerated track to more long-term employment.

Continued education helps professionals maintain their qualifications in a field that changes constantly. Individuals can pursue training through massive open online courses, which focus on specialized topics. Organizations like the American Health Information Management Association offer certifications in coding, healthcare privacy and security, and other specializations.

How Long Does It Take to Get Into Health Informatics?

The time it takes to enter the health informatics field depends on the job you are pursuing and the necessary educational background. Some positions require an associate degree, which could take two years or less to complete. Higher-level positions require advanced degrees, which involve four or more years and requisite work experience.

Due to increasing job demands, some professionals shift to health informatics careers by applying their current skills and expertise. For example, RNs can leverage their experience with electronic medical records into pharmacy or nursing specialties. Early career workers or recent graduates can quicken their entry into health informatics by taking on a fellowship.

The Future of Health Informatics

As Technology Costs Decline, Use of Telemedicine Will Increase

In general, technology costs continue to decrease, contributing to patients' and providers' growing use of telemedicine and other communications technologies. The COVID-19 pandemic helped fuel this trend, along with younger, tech-savvy consumers who continually drive many healthcare organizations to streamline the way patients access care and interact with their providers.

More Nursing Leaders Will Use More Informatics Technology

Health informatics has garnered more attention within the nursing profession, especially among leaders. Digital communications, patient monitoring, patient records, and healthcare software applications are increasingly being used in nursing. Technology tools will likely become more prominent in nursing education and practice. Also, legislative bodies will likely call for nursing improvements through IT.

Health Informatics Will Potentially Mitigate Health Disparities

Information technologies in healthcare have continued to grow. However, this increase has partly contributed to health disparities for underserved populations. Many health informatics professionals and other healthcare experts understand the implications of health inequity. They have called for more interventions and technological improvements to help close these gaps. They want to help providers engage more with communities in need.

Healthcare technologies will become more consumerized.

Increasing numbers of consumers rely on internet connectivity to perform many everyday tasks. However, many patients still want one-on-one time with their providers and personalized attention offline, even with the availability of telemedicine and web-based appointments. Health informaticists can help find ways for technology to facilitate open patient-provider communication. They can also work to help healthcare organizations maintain their visibility and credibility to consumers.

Technologies need to become more interactive.

Many current communication technologies cannot interface or "communicate" with each other efficiently. Professionals who perform data analytics and maintain extensive medical records have raised the call for more interoperability across systems. This requires that users share, exchange, update, and manage massive amounts of information across multiple applications, devices, and other system components. Such streamlining can help data managers avoid security breaches, prevent errors, and increase the efficiency and accuracy of records.

Is Health Informatics Right for Me?

The most successful students in health informatics programs tend to enjoy problem-solving and working with computers. They usually possess good communication skills. They also tend to work well within existing rules and structures to find creative technical solutions. They also need to understand the connections among different systems, like government, healthcare, and private industry.

Even if you have the appropriate skills and knowledge, a paid or unpaid internship can serve as an excellent way to determine your suitability for a health informatics career path. Also, talk with experienced health informatics professionals, and seek mentorship and practical advice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Health Informatics

What do health informatics professionals do?

Health informatics professionals work as clinical data analysts, health informatics specialists, and computer systems managers. Advanced degrees can allow these professionals to pursue careers as senior research scientists, postsecondary educators, and upper-level healthcare administrators.

Individuals in this field work in hospitals, pharmaceutical laboratories, private industry, higher education, and private practice clinics. Health informatics provides opportunities for technical work or advancement to leadership roles. Job opportunities exist for health informatics professionals with computer system administration, data analytics, or database management skills.

What is the difference between health informatics and health information technology?

Health informatics and health information technology require similar skills, such as critical thinking, communication, data management, and data security. Nevertheless, these fields differ in scope. For instance, a health informatics degree focuses on healthcare data management, which usually involves maintaining security, efficiency, and compliance with regulations when handling data.

Health information technology addresses the broader systems technicians use to store and organize medical and healthcare data. Health informatics emphasizes data and technology, while health information technology requires more leadership skills to coordinate teams and manage larger systems.

What can I do with a health informatics degree?

In addition to computer systems careers, people with health informatics degrees can work in higher education or applied research if they earn a master's or doctorate in a relevant discipline. Other professionals pursue management positions, which require them to gain leadership and communication skills during their training. An advanced degree in this field can also allow graduates to work in administration — particularly medical records, classification systems, or health information. People specializing in analytics utilize their computer skills to analyze, classify, and maintain medical data and patient records.

Is health informatics a good career?

The field of health informatics offers many employment opportunities in various settings. Jobs exist for professionals from all educational levels, and many of them potentially pay more than the median salaries of other occupations. Also, the growing number of older adults in the United States and the need to replace retiring employees will likely fuel the continuing demand for health informatics jobs.

The BLS projects that employment formedical records and health information technicians andmedical and health services managers will grow by 9% and 32%, respectively, from 2020-2030. Many professionals find working conditions amenable, with much of the work occurring at a computer. Because many healthcare facilities remain open 24 hours a day, some employees work night shifts or nontraditional schedules.

What are the highest-paying jobs in health informatics?

People in managerial or leadership roles have some of the highest-paying health informatics jobs. For example, the BLS reports that medical and health services managers earned a median annual salary of $104,280, as of May 2020, and computer and information systems managers made a median salary of $151,150 a year.

Even nonmanagerial professionals in health informatics careers enjoy median annual salaries that exceed the pay of many other occupations. In many cases, a master's or doctorate in health informatics can increase a professional's earning potential even more. Salaries also depend on geographic location, specific occupation, and work experience.

Learn about the differences between computer information systems and computer science. Find out which field is a better match for your personality. Explore the complex issue of academic freedom, and understand how it impacts what and how subjects are taught in today's college classrooms. Medical coding offers plenty of job growth whether you have a high school diploma or college degree. Find out how to become a medical coder in less than one year.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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