5 Skills Needed to Succeed in Health Informatics

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Computer screen full of codeHealth informatics professionals are tasked with the important responsibilities of obtaining, storing, organizing and leveraging data to improve the services provided by the healthcare industry. As data becomes an increasingly important resource in this field, demand for professionals who can efficiently and effectively work with this information is also on the rise.

If you are interested in pursuing one of these positions, the following five skills can help you succeed in the field of health informatics:

1. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are the competencies that allow you to interact effectively with other people. They include abilities such as conflict resolution, flexibility, empathy and teamwork. These traits are very important to succeed in a team environment,  an important requirement of the health informatics field.

In health informatics, you will rarely work completely on your own. The nature of the job often requires collaboration between Information Technology (IT)  professionals, clinical staff and organizational decision-makers, such as CEOs or marketing managers. To work closely with all of these professionals in an effective way en route to team objectives, you need to have well-developed interpersonal skills and team building skills.

2. Ability to problem solve

When working in health informatics, much of your day-to-day responsibilities will involve problem-solving in various settings. That may come in the form of clinical challenges, such as improving the sharing of patient data between providers, or involve information technology processes that need to be improved. While these tasks require intimate knowledge of health informatics, they also rely on problem-solving skills.

Sometimes, these challenges may arise because of the need to work closely with others from different disciplines. In these cases, your problem-solving skills will boil down to your ability to compromise and reach consensus while working with a multidisciplinary  team.

“One essential problem-solving skill that all workers ought to work toward is the ability to compromise,” educational consultant Gina Belli wrote for career website PayScale. “That sounds easy enough, but in practice it can be quite challenging. If you’re really dedicated to finding a way to come to an agreement with people who feel very differently than you do, you have to work on developing the mental flexibility needed to have your own mind changed.”

Whether you are solving problems related to data analysis or finding solutions to the obstacles that naturally arise when working on a team, this important ability will help you to thrive in a health informatics position.

3. Programming knowledge

Though computer programming is not necessarily a requirement for every health informatics position, it may give you an advantage over your competition and broaden your professional options. Languages like Java, C, Python, and SQL may be useful in the workplace, depending on your day-to-day responsibilities. If your current position does not provide opportunities to learn these skills, many free, online resources are available to improve your knowledge of the subject matter. Putting these technical languages on your resume could increase your chances of obtaining an interview for a position.

Research the responsibilities of your ideal role before choosing which – if any – technical language to learn. For instance, programming knowledge is particularly important if you want to build information systems for healthcare organizations, but some options may prove more useful than others.

4. Communication skills

Communication is a valuable skill in any industry. There are few positions that do not require you to convey information to another person, whether it is as part of an internal team memo or while meeting externally with client. However, this ability is particularly important for success in the field of health informatics. As an HI professional, you will generally be working with very complex information, such as large clinical data sets or revenue reports. Being able to communicate this information accurately and clearly is just as important as the collection, storage and management of the data.

However, it is not enough to be able to communicate well with those who work in your own department. In a health informatics role, you also need to be able to convey your work to other people within or outside your organization. Oftentimes, these professionals may not have the intimate knowledge of data analysis that is involved in your reports. As such, the ability to break down and explain this information those from various disciplines in a way they all can understand is critical. Keep in mind that communicating is not just speaking. It also involves listening.

“In our modern, global society, the skill of listening has taken a back seat,” Steve Olenski, a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing, wrote for Forbes. “Voice inflections, verbal pauses and eye contact have been replaced with texts, thumbs-up icons and emotions. While electronic communications make long-distance interaction easier than ever before, it has unfortunately hindered our ability to really listen during an information-rich conversation. ”

When working in a team environment, the value of communication skills is about more than simply representing your own knowledge well. Listening closely to the contributions of others is also necessary for process improvement in health informatics, especially in a team based setting.

5. Ability to work with health data systems

As a health informatics professional, you will likely work closely with the health data systems used in your workplace. Consequently, developing skills in this area is important for succeeding in obtaining and excelling in an HI role. As best practices in the effective utilization of information technology applications are constantly evolving, this area is something that even seasoned HI professionals are engaging with to advance their organization’s goals and status in the marketplace.

An effective way to learn more about the information systems used in healthcare is to earn a health informatics degree. In the Master of Science in Health Informatics online degree program with the University of Illinois at Chicago, you will take courses on topics such as the application of healthcare information systems and health information systems analysis and design, gaining the necessary skills and knowledge that can help you to perform well in the HI workplace. In a survey of UIC Master of Science in Health Informatics  graduates, 79 percent reported that the degree helped them to advance in the field, while 47 percent additionally reported that the degree helped them to earn a promotion.

To learn more about how an MSHI degree from UIC can advance your career in health informatics, contact the admissions office today.

Recommended reading:
6 tips for your health informatics job interview
How to mitigate the cost of a health informatics degree
Careers that are ideal for transitioning into health informatics


American Psychological Association, “The Role of Communication”
Forbes, “Five Communication Skills That Make Good Leaders Great”
Payscale, “5 Problem-Solving Skills All Professionals Need”