What Does Health Informatics Mean to You?

A couple of weeks ago, I was involved in a great discussion about health informatics and what it actually entails. This wasn’t the first time I have been involved in this type of discussion as informatics has been a buzzword in healthcare for several years now. Since no two organizations are structured exactly the same, Informatics can mean different things to different people.

For me, I have seen informatics in practice as those roles involved in building and optimizing the electronic medical record (EMR) and clinical workflows. Informatics professionals ensure data is being collected appropriately so that it can be used for further healthcare decision making and operations. This was a daunting new task several years ago when Meaningful Use first came into play. I remember many articles and statistical reports stating there was a major shortage of IT professionals who were going to be needed to help organizations meet Meaningful Use criteria and perform the role of health informatics.

I do not see informaticists as being confined to any particular department of a healthcare organization but rather they are professionals that are skilled in applying technological and data science techniques to healthcare practices. I have seen many roles such as IT, HIM, and licensed clinical professionals take on informatics responsibilities to address the needs of the changing healthcare environment. Informatics needs the collaboration of these different skillsets to bridge the gap between the technology and healthcare consumer outcomes using data and research.

When we start to look at informatics as it relates to healthcare research methodologies, I believe this is where informatics starts to split off into a more refined usage of data. This goes beyond the EMR workflow optimization and into the realm of using the data to build registries, look at cause and effect relationships, and review patterns and trends in healthcare treatment and outcomes. Since most of us healthcare professionals are at different stages of EMR implementation and optimization, there are some early adopters testing the waters and beginning to understand the value of all of the healthcare data that has become readily available. I am excited to see what the future holds for health informatics and how these tasks will be aligned with the HIM professional’s skillset.

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About the author

Erin Head

Erin Head

Erin Head is the Director of Health Information Management (HIM) and Quality for an acute care hospital in Titusville, FL. She is a renowned speaker on a variety of healthcare and social media topics and currently serves as CCHIIM Commissioner for AHIMA. She is heavily involved in many HIM and HIT initiatives such as information governance, health data analytics, and ICD-10 advocacy. She is active on social media on Twitter @ErinHead_HIM and LinkedIn. Subscribe to Erin's latest HIM Scene posts here.

1 Comment

  • Your last points regarding research; it is impossible to do a good job on researching diseases and how they respond to a variety of treatments when it is all on paper, or perhaps in systems but not accessible to researchers, and scattered throughout many institutions. In writing, I have one particular disease in mind, a ‘type’ of anemia, which is actually numerous types in real life, with a variety of drugs that may help different patients to a different extent based on which variant they have of the disease. A given doctor may have great results in his patient, but even if he publishes it is not uncommon for there to not be enough specifics for another doctor to see if this makes sense for his patient.

    The only way to fix this problem is to have the (de-identified) data from as many patients as possible – detailed test results matched up against treatment regimens. It takes a lot of data that a researcher must be able to put together and analyze. It also takes collaboration. I’d guess that for this particular disease there are probably several dozen doctors around the country with a decent knowledge and understanding of this disease, plus many more out in the ‘field’ trying to help their patients – and real progress will likely be achieved only once they can pool their data.


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