Health informatics combines the use of computer technology with the science of health information management (HIM), keeping, protecting and storing patient health information.

These professionals find ways to develop more effective methods for controlling how health information is stored and used, suggesting ways to better manage how information gets from once place to another and ensuring that health information stays private and safe.

Defining specialty

Health informatics specialists often have expertise in computerized medical records systems and claims software and should know how clinical care is carried out to help them design efficient processes.

Health informatics is similar to other types of informatics fields, such as developing computerized systems for retail or banking operations. But in health care, where the privacy and security of information is critical, health informatics must adjust constantly to keep up with both the upgrades in health care technology and changes in clinical health care needs or trends.

The task at hand

Experts in health informatics play an important role in a wide range of health care settings to help put electronic health records in place and improve health care quality and safety and lower costs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office of Workforce and Career Development, working with the University of Washington, says people interested in public health informatics should:

  • Set strategic direction

  • Know informatics standards

  •  Meet the needs of those using the systems

  •  Support information systems development

  • Be able to manage information technology projects and programs

  • Have strong communication skills

  • Know about public health research

  • Be able to develop systems that work together

  • Know how to protect information

Information governance

For the data in health records to be useful, it must be trustworthy and available when and where it is needed. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) recognizes that information governance, an organization-wide framework for managing information as it moves through an organization, is necessary to meet the new requirements of an increasingly complex health care system.

Information governance is a relatively new concept for health care, and there is growing recognition that today’s health care organizations need to manage all of their information as a strategic asset and adopt tools for decision making. HIM professionals, with their unique skills and knowledge, will be an important part of these efforts.