Careers in Health Informatics

With the rise of big data and the increase in the number of people with health insurance, there’s a growing need to organize and analyze health information. As a result, health informatics careers are burgeoning. There are a variety of career paths in the health informatics field, ranging from health informatics specialist and nurse informaticist to informatics manager and director roles. 

Explore health informatics careers, skills needed in health informatics and salary expectations below.

Health Informatics Specialist

A health informatics specialist is a career that focuses on how health information is captured, transmitted and used in a variety of health care settings. It’s an interdisciplinary approach that blends information technology with communication and health care. The goal of the transition to digital technology is to provide a higher level of health care more efficiently.

With the federally mandated transition to electronic health care records, a health informatics specialist’s career path is a promising one. You can begin with an associate degree in health informatics to prepare you for an entry-level position as a health technician or informatics specialist. Typically, a bachelor’s degree is necessary for management jobs such as an information systems manager.

As your experience and education increase, you can rise to a position as a health information analyst, gathering and interpreting data from a variety of sources. More advanced degrees such as a master’s in health informatics may prepare you for a leadership role in this profession.

A health informatics specialist is a valued contributor in a wide range of health care settings, from hospitals and research centers to consulting roles. Those with health care experience, such as nurses, may be better prepared for leadership positions in this evolving field.

Health informatics professionals interact with physicians, nurses and specialists and other IT professionals. Daily duties for informatics specialists vary, but most jobs will include gathering and analyzing data, designing workflows, measuring impact, educating and training end users, managing systems and managing discussions between end users and software developers. Some of the most common  skills in health informatics include problem-solving and communication.

You may be asked to design new tools to capture and analyze data to guide senior health care administrators and health care providers in making strategic decisions. Health informatics professionals also often manage and safeguard patient data such as treatments, test results and other patient histories to comply with regulations and company policies.

Health Informatics Consultant

A health informatics consultant works with a health care organization to ensure compliance with federal regulations, trains and supports staff on technologies and procedures and communicates across multiple levels of the organization. People with this title may work full-time for an employer or may work with a consulting agency with a variety of clients. Typically, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum required to work in a consultant role.

Clinical Informatics Specialist

Clinical informatics specialists typically have a bachelor’s degree and some clinical experience. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you may want to consider a master’s in health informatics when applying since masters degrees are usually preferred by employers. People in this position work closely with health care providers to ensure clinical information systems are functioning properly and providing adequate support to the mission.

Informatics Nurse

The nursing informatics field spans nursing, computer science and information science to support the practice of nursing. Health care organizations are turning to informatics nurses to manage clinical outcomes and improve cost efficiency. After completing a nursing informatics program, you’ll be prepared to handle complex health information in hospitals, nursing homes, public health firms and research labs. This career is typically for someone who is already a nurse. 

Pharmacy Informatics Specialist/Informatics Pharmacist

A pharmacy informatics specialist draws on medical knowledge and information technology to improve patient outcomes. New technology such as electronic medical records and computerized prescription order entry is replacing paper records in pharmacy practice, opening the door for more in-depth collaboration with physicians.

Public Health Informatics

In the public health arena, informatics professionals enable effective decision-making by connecting and interpreting data for practitioners. By empowering disease prevention and intervention, public health informatics leads to better health for communities and individuals.

Common Skills Needed in Health Informatics

Because health informatics blends technology and medicine, professionals must develop a range of skill sets from programming to management. Some people start with a clinical background and receive training in information technology. Others start in the opposite direction, adding medical training to their IT backgrounds. 

Apart from public health knowledge, some common skills in health informatics may include:

Knowledge of health data systems: Health informatics professionals analyze, design, evaluate, test and maintain health data systems. They need to learn and help optimize new systems as technology evolves. 

Programming knowledge: While not all informatics specialists spend time programming, many positions require knowledge of a range of computer languages. For example, you may find Java, Python, C, SQL and other languages useful for creating and managing databases. 

Data analytics skills: A specialist may also create charts, graphs and presentations to inform managers and practitioners of data-driven results and trends. Some data analytics skills with Excel or Tableau might be helpful to visualize these results.

Independent problem-solving: When supporting the health care system and dealing with big data, professionals might tackle a variety of unexpected challenges, from data security to maintaining systems. The ability to solve problems helps professionals find solutions to meet all stakeholders’ needs.

Communication and collaboration skills: These skills are among the most valued for health informatics professionals because they interact with people from a cross-section of their organization, as well as with stakeholder groups. Being able to explore insights from the complex information via data management skills is as important as it is to articulate these findings to stakeholders.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

As the industry continues to adopt electronic record-keeping requirements, the career outlook for health care informatics specialists will be healthy through the middle of the 2020s. 

Salaries range from $40,305 per year for medical records and health information technicians, which typically require a postsecondary nondegree award, to $122,840 for computer and information research scientists with a master’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Jobs for medical record and health information technicians are expected to increase 11% through 2028, while jobs for computer and information research scientists will grow 16%—both much faster than the average for all occupations, the BLS projects.

Work Settings for Health Informatics Professionals

Doctor’s office: Health care providers must safeguard patient data and collect and analyze data to improve health outcomes. Depending on the size of the practice, you could work full time or as a consultant.

Specialist practice: Medical specialties rely on accurate, easily accessible patient records to deliver care efficiently. Your data analytics could improve patient outcomes and enhance the quality of life for many people.

Pharmacy: Data is the lifeblood of a pharmacy, and informatics allows the pharmacy to communicate with other health care providers securely and efficiently.

Hospital: Health care managers consult data regularly to guide clinical and commercial decisions, and rely on informatics specialists to deliver information seamlessly. Often, informatics specialists communicate across departmental barriers due to the multidisciplinary nature of the field.

Public health agency: You could work with agencies to improve health outcomes for disadvantaged populations, or help manage disease outbreaks.

IT consultant: Consultants work with clients to implement and improve their informatics programs. You could help solve problems at a hospital or install a new system at a medical practice.

There are a variety of health informatics careers where students can blend health care with technology to efficiently improve patient outcomes. You can specialize in an area of existing expertise or branch out into a new health care area. For medical professionals looking for new challenges, a career as a health informatics specialist could be a compelling, rewarding option for your future. If you are considering an advanced degree to achieve it and don’t want to quit your job, a master’s in health informatics online program might be right for you.

Information last updated in June 2020