Data is being used to improve processes, products and services in numerous industries across the U.S. By collecting numbers, images, videos and more, trends and best practices are able to be sorted out that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. A specific field that is increasingly making use of this data to this end is health care, which is using collected information to improve patient care and outcomes across the country.
Though there are many players involved in leveraging data for use in health care, many of the key staff members involved in the process work in the field of health informatics. While these professionals can come from a variety of backgrounds, those who have experience working either in health care or general information technology may find it easier to transition into a career in this growing and evolving specialization.
What is health informatics?
Data is being collected at an increasing rate in health care. Many of those who wish to be involved with leveraging this information pursue a career in health informatics, which is fast proving to be an up and coming specialization within the sphere of health care.
Health informatics is the field that examines gathered data and uses it to improve and advance healthcare. It is the intersection between the health profession, information technology and computer science and is playing a critical role in the current age of healthcare reform.
While health informatics is related to health IT, the two fields are not the same. Health informatics is concerned with the science behind the systems health IT focuses on, applying information to real-life situations. The data that is analyzed can be used for important tasks in organizations that directly affect patient care and outcomes, such as:
Supporting clinical decision making.
Coordinating care more efficiently.
Decreasing administrative costs.
Improving public health reporting.
In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, C. Martin Harris, CIO of the Cleveland Clinic, explained that health analysts are being tasked with increasingly difficult responsibilities in the workplace, which makes an advanced degree valuable.
“If I know that my visit rate of patients with common cold symptoms is doubling and it’s October, I’m going to be able to predict from that what the rate of actual influenza is, and the implications that will have on the number of in-patient admissions,” Harris said.
He reported that his team contains 10 members who already have a higher degree and 10 who are in the process of earning theirs online.
Careers that transition well into health informatics
Though professionals in this field come from a variety of backgrounds, many health informatics specialists began their careers in a related role and then transitioned into the new position, many through earning a higher degree. While people can have a successful career in health informatics no matter what field they began in, there are certain related roles that lend themselves to an easier transition when looking to work in health informatics.
Those you work in one of the following roles may specifically want to consider pursuing a career in health informatics:
Health care professionals: Whether an MD, registered nurse or any other health care professional, those who are already working in the medical sphere are uniquely situated to excel in the field of health informatics. Being employed as a clinician can provide opportunities to start working with data even before a career change, as an increasing number of providers are now using electronic health records and similar online tools.
RNs can choose to specifically pursue a position as a nurse informaticist, which combines the principles of nursing science with information management and analysis to inform evidence-based practices.
Research assistants: Professionals who have worked as a research assistant or another position in a health-related lab are likely familiar with many of the problems facing modern healthcare. With this particular work experience, they may be well-equipped for a job as a clinical data analyst or healthcare application analyst. A clinical data analyst is primarily responsible for developing and managing the databases that are used to collect and store information in healthcare.
Pharmacists: Being a pharmacist – or even a pharmaceutical salesperson – gives a person knowledge of medical jargon and drug use that can be extremely valuable when working toward a role in health informatics. These professionals may even choose to focus on problems in the field that involve drug production and use or specifically consider pursuing a career as a pharmacy informatics specialist. This roles is primarily tasked with improving patient care and outcomes through increasing the efficacy of the administration of pharmaceuticals.
IT Specialists: Though work experience in medicine is a plus, it is not required. In fact, a health background is not even the only type of advantage that can create an easy transition into health informatics. Those working as information technology specialists, no matter the particular emphasis, already likely have much of the knowledge of data collection and use that they need to thrive in health informatics. Picking up the nuances of the health field can be gained by earning a higher degree in health informatics.
While professionals considering a career change may have an easier time transitioning into health informatics if they currently work in one of the above positions, they are not out of luck if employed in a different field. Completing a higher degree in health informatics will prepare most any person for a successful career in this up and coming healthcare specialization.
Earning an online MSHI through UIC
Those interested in pursuing a career in the field of health informatics should consider pursuing a Master of Science in Health Informatics degree online through the University of Illinois at Chicago. No matter what background a person is coming from, earning an advanced degree will provide the specific skills and knowledge that is needed to succeed in the career through an exceptional program that can fit into any schedule.
The online MSHI program through UIC is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) and is completed in two to two and a half years on average, though students have six years to finish the degree.
By choosing to complete the degree online, students are able to obtain their higher degree while continuing to work in their current position if desired. This is especially beneficial for those in one of the previously mentioned roles which provide applicable work experience for a career in health informatics.
The time is right to pursue a higher education en route to career in health informatics. With increased demand for healthcare services due to widespread coverage under the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – the medical field, including data specializations, is booming. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for health information technicians is expected to increase by 15 percent between 2014 and 2024, a much faster than average rate across industries. The rise in demand is expected to add approximately 29,000 jobs to the workforce.
Contact UIC admissions today to learn about whether the online MSHI program is the right next step for your career in health informatics.