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What is Healthcare Informatics?

Innovations to industry come with new responsibilities and opportunities. The application of computers and information systems to the healthcare field bring a need for more workers in an important discipline for the future of health providers — healthcare informatics.

Boiled down, health informatics is the study of the resources and methods of managing health information. Due to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) act of 2009, electronic health records are becoming the new norm. Understanding health information systems and being able to navigate, update and streamline them are skills currently in high demand.

The creation of these new systems is placing technology at the center of health records management, requiring professionals to adjust to new methods for record keeping and tracking patient information. The complicated nature of managing these systems has created the need for specialists in health informatics capable of recording and using the data in a variety ways that ultimately improve patient care and help healthcare facilities meet federal mandates.

Changing the Delivery of Healthcare Services

Electronic health records (EHRs) have vastly increased the amount of health information available and the speed with which it is communicated. A secure digital environment for storing patients’ clinical and administrative information provides easier access to information for patients, making them active partners in their care and treatment.

A simplified transference of information between healthcare professionals allows them to provide better care by reducing admission times and redundant tests.

This is all part of how EHRs support the emerging discipline of clinical data analytics, which incorporates medical information to measure the quality of care a patient has received and to monitor how different treatments have worked for specific patients.

An interesting byproduct of EHRs that pushes the trend of empowering patients even further is the ability to use mobile devices for health purposes. Smartphones and tablets can allow care providers to monitor and share important information with patients, enhancing the ability of patients to become active participants in their care by sharing data through a convenient and instant method.

Importance of Informatics Finally Realized

The use of informatics can be found as far back as the 1950s with dental data collected by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Subsequent decades saw the development of the Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System, which provided programming language for clinical applications, but not until recently has it been considered such a vital piece of the healthcare puzzle.

Today, databases and computer systems that can transfer a lifetime worth of patient medical history with a few clicks of a mouse are becoming standard.

Soon, doctors will be able to access a patient’s medical records no matter where on the globe the records come from, or where the physician is. The long-term effects on health information remain to be seen, but healthcare informatics professionals will likely help determine the shape of that information landscape.

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