What is Medical Informatics?

As technology continues to evolve, more and more healthcare information is being uploaded, stored and utilized online by medical practitioners, providers and other health workers.

This growing discipline, which began in the 1960s but didn’t become commonplace until the 1970s, is known as medical informatics.

Since 2009, with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, medical informatics has grown to include the design, development and application of online innovations in healthcare service, management and long-term planning. These innovations allow patients and providers alike direct access to pertinent medical data.

Information technology (IT) lets hospitals, health providers and other entities such as laboratories, pharmacies and insurance providers use new and dynamic ways to properly record, maintain, access and electronically discuss medical information.

It also has created a high demand and need for skilled workers who understand the importance of medical informatics. Patient health can change in an instant, and the speed and accuracy with which information is uploaded and shared online can mean the difference between life and death, according to the World Wide website.

Current job opportunities include database administrators, project designers, programmers and analysts. Some positions require direct support of existing systems while other jobs help design new systems. Students with a background in computer science and/or information technology can transition easily into medical informatics or a specialized offshoot.

Here’s a look at three critical positions within medical informatics:


 The Chief Medical Information Officer is a new position resulting from the federal push to create a national electronic medical records database. CMIOs can be practicing physicians or specialized IT professionals who are tasked with evaluating a health organization’s existing IT system, helping design and implement new electronic health record software and applications and converting and/or analyzing the medical data received by the organization. CMIOs help ensure that any data uploaded electronically can be accessed across different IT systems, and that the information is used to assist and improve healthcare services. CMIOs also train other professionals to use electronic records and sometimes perform analytics to generate research and findings to present to healthcare officials, government leaders and educational agencies.

In October 2016, the website listed the average annual salary for CMIOs as $150,715.

Medical Informatics Director

A Medical Informatics Director, much like a CMIO, is responsible for overseeing the effectiveness and accuracy of a healthcare organization’s management reporting functions, such as cost, utilization and profitability, and overall IT strategy. They work with facility administrators to determine and implement strategic benchmarks and update various department directors on the anticipated cost and expected quality of any system improvements. They must stay on top of changing technology and develop good working relationships with other health IT professionals and outside vendors. Successful applicants typically have a bachelor’s degree in finance, statistics, business or a related field. Many employers give preference to individuals with a master’s degree and/or years of related experience.

In October 2016, listed the average annual salary for medical information directors as $69,975.

Clinical Informatics Specialist

This position works directly with electronic medical records software to gather and document care provided for each patient. Clinical informatics specialists work with clinicians to help improve their organization’s system by training them on how to use the system and receiving feedback. They also can be asked to take the lead as a project manager to make sure improvements and upgrades are completed in a timely manner.

In October 2016, listed the average annual salary for medical information directors as $70,861.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 17% job growth rate for all medical and health services managers from 2014 to 2024.

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