Understanding the Role of a Physician in Implementing Health Care Informatics Systems

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A physician works on his computer while sitting at his desk. Technology is revolutionizing health care in remarkable ways. Robotic surgery, wireless brain sensors and 3D printing of artificial organs are all exciting new areas of research. But one of the most impactful ways that technology is affecting medicine is in the field of medical information systems.

Health care informatic systems combine information technology, computer science, communications, data sharing, and medical care to create a new field that redefines the role of a physician in modern medicine. From educating health care consumers to integrating medical records, the organization and access of medical information are profoundly impacting health care.

These advances mean that to be effective, physicians need to increase their knowledge in the areas of IT systems, data analysis, and communications systems. Understanding the importance of health informatics is critical for health science professionals, and pursuing an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Health Informatics, can help them develop the tools to implement and benefit from health informatics systems.

The Role of Physicians in Health Care Informatics Systems

Health care informatics systems represent a data-driven approach to improving patient care. By collecting and organizing medical records, patient care can be coordinated between caregivers. This same data can also be used to research medical conditions and the efficacy of treatments, resulting in new treatments; more effective results; and the removal of ineffective, potentially expensive procedures.

A few decades ago, patients relied solely on physicians for medical information. Today, patients are educating themselves on health issues through the internet. Because of this, most patients have become much more involved in their health care decisions, which has changed the classic patient-physician relationship. For example, friends and family often help patients research medical conditions, and online support groups help to educate those suffering from illnesses and medical conditions. Patients may also interact directly with physicians online—either their primary physicians or doctors they hire for secondary consultations.

Integrated health records also impact the role of a physician. Doctors can collaborate like never before, using data-driven insights to coordinate patient care. For physicians to adapt to health care’s changing environment, they’ll have to become comfortable with the ways that medical informatics are implemented in patient care and how the data changes diagnostics, patient interactions, and treatment. In addition, the collection and analysis of medical information are creating new career fields with this cutting-edge technology.

Chief Medical Information Officer

A chief medical information officer is a health care professional who’s skilled in IT. The responsibilities of chief medical information officers include planning, developing and implementing a facility’s medical information platform and keeping it running smoothly. They’re also responsible for training physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals to effectively use the medical information platform. According to September 2019 data from PayScale, the median annual salary for chief information officers is $158,000.

Medical Informatics Technology Director

Medical informatics technology directors oversee medical information systems that collect, analyze and share patient information among health care specialists. They’re responsible for developing project requirements and matching them to the needs of health care organizations. Medical information technology directors must have a strong background in IT development as well as a deep understanding of patient care to create a product that not only is a powerful tool for medical treatment, but also considers cost, ethics, privacy, and efficiency issues. According to September 2019 data from PayScale, the average annual salary for an IT director is $118,200.

Medical Informatics Researcher

Medical informatics researchers use the huge databases of medical information now available to analyze health trends and make new discoveries in diagnosing and treating disease. Using information gleaned from clinical trials, patient medical records and even from health apps used by patients, medical informatics researchers discern new patterns of consumer health, which translates into improved care and services. They may also work with insurance companies to analyze which treatments and health practices are most cost-effective for their clients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, operations research analysts, which includes medical informatics researchers, earned a median annual salary of $83,400 in 2018. The projected growth rate for this profession is 28% from 2018 to 2028.

Medical Informatics Systems Analyst

Medical informatics systems analysts evaluate health informatics systems and analyze their effectiveness and productivity. Their work enables better collaboration between treatment specialists, which improves care and economic efficiency. They also develop strategies to collect the most helpful medical information for research while being sensitive to ethical and legal issues. According to the BLS, computer system analysts earned a median annual salary of $88,700 in 2018, and the projected growth rate for this profession is 9% from 2018 to 2028.

Teacher or Professor of Medical Informatics

Skilled instructors are in demand to train new professionals in the field of medical informatics. Training ranges from coaching during the implementation of specific systems to high-level education about designing new systems and analyzing data. The broad field of medical informatics requires skills in IT and computer software as well as medical knowledge, communication skills, and a grasp of the ethical and legal issues involved with the collection of sensitive and personal information. According to the BLS, those who teach postsecondary computer sciences in colleges, universities and professional schools earned a median annual salary of $100,000 in 2018. The BLS also projects that postsecondary education occupations will grow by 11% from 2018 to 2028.

How Can Physicians Adapt to Their Changing Roles?

As the role of a physician continues to change, the collection, management, and analysis of medical information will only grow in its impact and importance. Training will be crucial to stay relevant. The University of Illinois at Chicago, the country’s largest medical school, offers an online Master of Science in Health Informatics degree that can enhance the success of graduates in this developing field. Modeled on its business school, this degree program emphasizes leadership, technical knowledge, and hands-on experience. Some of the courses offered include the following:

  • Health Care Data. This course reviews the various types of data collected through health care facilities and patient response. It follows the path of information from raw data to usable statistics that can be applied in treatment.
  • Communication Skills in Health Informatics. Communication skills are crucial for the successful application of health informatics. This applied course has students practice both their oral and written communication skills.
  • Ethics and Legal Issues in Health Informatics. Privacy issues and the use of personal information are important ethical and legal concerns in health informatics. This course examines how best to mitigate these problems while using computerized medical information.
  • Management of Health Care Communication Systems. Different health care facilities use different technologies and standards and even have different issues. This computer-intensive course teaches how to integrate health care information across various platforms.
  • Health Information Systems Analysis and Design. What are the successful methods to build, implement and evaluate health information systems? This project course uses design theory and system analysis to answer this question.

Learn More about a Master of Science in Health Informatics

UIC’s online MSHI uses a business school model to prepare students for the rapidly growing field of health informatics. By concentrating on real-world applications, this program enhances leadership skills and provides state-of-the-art instruction on IT and technical skills needed to succeed. With this new knowledge, graduates place themselves at the forefront of health leadership, can help to define new directions of research and patient care, and can impact the future of health care all over the world. Learn how you can become part of this dynamic, important field through UIC’s online Master of Science in Health Informatics.

Recommended Readings

4 Ways Health Informatics Improves Patient Care7 Interesting Blogs for Health Informatics Students3 Ways Technology Has Changed Health Care


American Medical Association, “What Future Physicians Need to Know: Mastering Clinical Informatics” 
Association of Academic Health Centers, “The Role of the Physician in 21st Century Health Care”
PayScale, Average Chief Information Officer Salary
PayScale, Average Health Informatics Specialist Salary
PayScale, Average Health Information Management Director Salary
PayScale, Average Information Technology Director Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer Systems Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Operation Research AnalystsU.S. National Library of Medicine, “Five Years of Clinical Informatics Board Certification for Physicians in the United States of America”