Health informatics (HI) (also called medical informatics) focuses on information technology to positively impact the patient - physician relationship through effective collection, safeguarding, and understanding of health data.
The health care industry generates as much as 30% of the world’s data, which will rise to 36% by 2025—a substantial leap, with health-related data expanding faster than data generation in other major industries.
In response to this information explosion, and motivated by improving human health, health informatics arose as a multi-disciplinary professional field studies and pursues the effective uses of biomedical data, information, and knowledge for scientific inquiry, problem-solving, and decision making.
The advancement of technology in the medical field, accompanied by the requirements to keep sensitive data confidential, has created a robust need for health informatics specialists, who work at he intersection of information science, computer science, and health care.
What will I study?
Health informatics students ...
- ... study software, databases, and analytical tools that process biological information
- ... learn how to design and implement innovative applications and promote new technologies in health care, such as medical decision support systems, telemedicine applications, and medical ethics and biostatistic guidelines
- ... draw on various resources, devices, and methods to learn to optimize the acquisition, storage, retrieval, interpretation, and use of health and biomedicine information.
- ... retrieve and share information efficiently, think critically while problem solving, and make decisions based on the best possible patient outcomes.
- ... may specialize in nursing informatics, chemical informatics, dental informatics, or other specialties.
Health informatics majors explore multidisciplinary fields including:
- Data informatics
- Decision support systems
- Consumer health informatics
- International healthcare systems
- Global health informatics
- Translational research informatics
- Home care
- Information security
- Data privacy
- Artificial intelligence
Because health informatics is a technical and business-oriented occupation, most health informatics positions require a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. A master’s degree is typically preferred for most of the higher-level, higher-paying roles. Some common health informatics-related degrees are:
- Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics
- Bachelor of Information Technology
- Bachelor of Science Business—Information Technology Management
- Master of Science in Health Informatics
- Master of Information Systems
- Master of Health Informatics
- Master of Nursing Informatics
What technical skills do health informatics specialists need?
Technical skills, necessary to perform specific jobs, are typically acquired through education and training and are required to pursue and be successful in a particular career field. Health informatics professionals learn technical skills such as:
- Computer Programming. Some health informatics specialists design computer programs to automate the application of statistical analysis techniques to clinical data, drawing out insights that would be impossible to unearth without the aid of technologies such as artificial intelligence.
- Data Analytics. The role of data analytics in health care is expansive, and health informatics pros use descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics to discover patterns, forecast and problem solve.
- Health Care IT: Health informatics specialists work closely with health information technology, including electronic health records (EHR) and clinical health data systems. They must also be comfortable working with data generated by technologies such as telemedicine, wearable health devices, electronic prescription services, patient portals and consumer health care apps.
- Management: Senior and executive positions in health informatics (e.g., director of health informatics or Chief Medical Information Officer) involve managing teams of informatics specialists or heading up strategic project management.
What soft skills do HI professionals need?
Soft skills are competencies that support productivity, creativity and collaboration.
- Analytical Thinking Skills. Health informatics specialists work with and analyze complex data sets. This requires technical competency and a keen understanding of how trends and patterns can drive decision-making. Informaticists use analytical thinking skills every time they glean insights from electronic medical records or insurance claim data and then weave those insights into a compelling narrative for stakeholders.
- Communication Skills. Research shows that effective communication has a positive effect on organizational performance. Health informatics specialists bridge the gap between highly technical clinical data analysis and health care system leadership. Strong communication skills let professionals in this field break down complex data concepts to an audience who may not be technologically savvy. Informaticists also liaise between providers, IT staff and health care administration audiences, using data to connect those groups to serve common goals.
- Curiosity and Drive. Health informatics specialists work in various business and clinical health care settings (e.g., hospitals, specialty clinics, insurance companies and health IT firms). To thrive in all of them, informaticists must commit to lifelong learning because technology and health care evolve rapidly.
- Ethics. Health informatics professionals work closely with confidential patient data, so they must operate ethically. Health information management in the age of Big Data poses new ethical problems related to “patient-facing tools, mobile devices, social media, privacy inclusivity, and e-consent.”
- Organization. Health informatics specialists often engage with massive data sets and work on large projects that can impact patients, health care providers and health care systems. Their approach to health data management must be meticulous to ensure patient data stays private and secure and that organizations comply with all relevant regulations.
- Problem-Solving. Problem-solving is one of the primary duties of health informatics specialists, who use clinical or operational data to identify challenges and actionable solutions in health care settings. Beyond merely collecting or processing data, informaticists dissect results, examine trends and make informed recommendations based on their findings.
What are some career areas in health informatics?
- Public health informatics focus on how to use information technology to educate the public. They study computer science and use their computer skills to keep track of current medical research. Also, they learn to design and implement new methods in the field.
- Organizational informatics is the study of both communication within medical organizations and the collation of data used by such organizations. It, too, involves information technology and computer science.
- Social informatics involves research on both the social implications of computerization and the way that information technology affects society’s perception of these systems. Social informatics is based much more on research and theory than other disciplines in the field, yet students who study it might eventually bring about more change than others in different disciplines.
- Clinical informatics involves the study of the ways that information technology affects clinical research and medical education. When coupled with social informatics, it also compliments patient education and perception of the process.
What are some health informatics job titles?
The health informatics field is diverse and expanding, with demand being fueled by the health care industry's focus on evidence-based medicine, quality improvement, and data security and accessibility for patients. Most medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor’s degree before entering the field. Master’s degrees also are common. Work experience in an administrative or a clinical role in a hospital or other healthcare facility is also common.
- Health informatics specialist
- Clinical analyst
- Clinical informatics manager
- Nursing informatics specialist
- Pharmacy or nutrition informaticist
- Clinical informatics manager
- Health informatics consultant
- Informatics nurse
- Healthcare IT project manager
- Informatics director
- Chief medical information officer (CMIO)
Where do HI professionals work?
Health informatics graduates work health-related organizations, including:
Hospital and healthcare systems
Health informatics firms
Computer/information security firms
Medical technology firms
Public health organizations
Medical software companies
Health insurance companies
- Governmental agencies
- Medical clinics and doctor’s offices
- Long-term care facilities
- Medical billing firms
- Medical oversight firms
What do health informatics professionals make?
Job titles and career paths are diverse in the health informatics field. Following are a few broad health informatics job titles and their associated median annual salaries.
- Medical and Health Services Managers: $101,340 per year/$48.72 per hour1
- Computer and Information Systems Managers: $159,010 per year/$76.45 per hour1
- Management Analysts: $93,000 per year/$44.71 per hour1
1: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, accessed March 2023.
The future of health informatics
The digitization of healthcare is well underway, and today's rapid progression in artificial intelligence, data security standards, and big data is affecting our daily lives more and more. The organizational need to respond to these changing technologies assures the future of the health informatics field, as these professionals will lead the efforts to adapt in this new landscape.
Health Informatics at Michigan Tech
Ranked as a top program in Michigan, the health informatics (HI) at Michigan Technological University takes an interdisciplinary approach. You can complete your degree at your own pace, online or on campus. Flexibility is built in.
Master of Science in Health Informatics
The Master of Science in Health Informatics includes accelerated and online delivery and is designed to:
- deepen understanding and knowledge of medical informatics and computer/information security
- provide a flexible curriculum to allow for both traditional and nontraditional graduate students
- provide research opportunities within the field of medical informatics
Health Informatics Certificates
Delivered on-campus and online, our graduate certificate programs in Security and Privacy in Healthcare and the Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare present opportunities for working professionals and undergraduate students to acquire expertise in two critical, fast-expanding areas of computing and healthcare, while also earning credit towards an MS in Health Informatics.
Health Informatics Research
Our research focuses on innovations that benefit society and the environment. We bring students and faculty together at the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems and Health Research Institute. CyberS, the Center for Cybersecurity, expands innovation in the field most crucial to Information Technology, from information security and biometrics to trusted software engineering. DataS, the Center for Data Sciences, unites diverse faculty and students to discover new knowledge in interdisciplinary collaboration. At the Center for Human-Centered Computing, Michigan Tech students learn to become future creators, finding the balance of computing, humanity, and interaction.