Health informatics refers to the way in which patient medical information is stored and used. The professionals trained in health informatics are charged with the responsibility of finding ways to retrieve, keep, and send patient health information for present and future use.
Ultimately, the goal is to do this in a way that makes that information more accessible to healthcare providers in different departments, different facilities, and across healthcare networks.
When was the last time you sat and pondered the importance of how hospitals store, use and send medical information? Other than wanting to have information on-hand when you need it, you probably don’t give too much thought to the whys and wherefores of health informatics. Most people don’t. A new patient will briefly scan a privacy form before scribbling his or her signature at the bottom. That’s about as involved as most people like to get.
The Benefits of Health Informatics
While you may not think too much about the impact of informatics on the healthcare industry, it has been a game changer, not just for healthcare professionals, but also for the patients they serve.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality conducted multiple studies using computer-based patient records in hospitals, healthcare facilities, and ambulatory vehicles and discovered that health informatics consistently delivers three benefits:
- Health informatics improves the quality of medical care delivered.
- Health informatics improves medication management, and
- Health informatics enhances patient self-management
When properly implemented, healthcare informatics reduces the cost of providing care, reduces instances of misdiagnoses, and minimizes provider mistakes and oversights in prescribing treatments.
Healthcare informatics is patient-centered, but it’s not just about patients. Informatics also assesses the needs of healthcare professionals to determine if everyday procedures are hindering or enhancing the delivery of quality care. Informatics looks at how medical information gets from one provider, department, or facility to another.
How EHRs Are Used in Healthcare Informatics
Over the last ten years, the healthcare industry has essentially converted from paper documents to using electronic health records (EHRs) or electronic medical records (EMRs). EHRs consolidate a patient’s past and present medical records and make health information available to care providers in real time. EHRs also automate various aspects of patient care such as automatically reminding nurses of medication times, verifying dosages and providing insights into a patient’s medical history.
According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2017, 86.9 percent of office-based physicians used an EMR or EHR system, compared to just 56 percent in 2015. This shift creates an immediate need for informaticists.
Health Informatics breaks down into several subcategories:
Clinical Informatics, Bio-Informatics
Computational Health Informatics
Community Health Informatics
Healthcare facilities are looking implement EHRs but they need personnel on the ground that can help seamlessly integrate new systems into the facility’s daily operations. Such a team would be able to take a hospital with overworked staff and underserved patients and turn it into a facility that makes optimal use of its resources to deliver top-notch medical care.
Health Informatics as the Future of Medicine
In order to streamline the way medical facilities deliver care, informaticists have to look at everything – processes, personnel and productivity. Streamlining requires informatics nurses and personnel to swap old business processes that work for new ones that work even better. That’s no easy task and it requires informatics teams to have a healthy amount of tenacity and vision.
As Jim Collins (bestselling author and management consultant) says,
“Good is the enemy of great.”
When it comes to delivering quality healthcare, most patients and medical professionals would vote for great over good any day.