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What is health informatics?

health informaticsKeeping up-to-date with all the information needed to provide good healthcare can be a full-time job in itself. Read on to find out more about a career in health informatics.

What is health informatics?

Health informatics is the overall name for the many different ways information is gathered and used in healthcare. It might involve designing databases to keep track of patient records, collecting statistics for public health campaigns, hospital administration, researching treatments or writing new guidelines for doctors. The different branches of health informatics often include elements of information and computer science as well as healthcare, and the NHS breaks it down into four main areas:

  • Clinical informatics involves recording data taken from patients. Many people working in clinical informatics will be clinically trained staff such as doctors with a particular specialism, but they also need good administrators and technicians to make sure information is filed and distributed efficiently.
  • Information and communication technology involves managing and developing computer and communication networks in hospitals or other health organisations. It requires excellent IT skills, and roles might include helpdesk support officers, systems analysts and project managers.
  • Information management is the most mathematical side of health informatics, and involves analysing and interpreting lots of data, which might then be used to ensure hospitals are meeting safety standards, or to design new business or delivery models.
  • Knowledge management involves supporting medical staff in their education and training, as well as presenting information to patients. Knowledge management staff include librarians who help doctors find the latest research and studies, and web editors who produce content for websites like NHS Direct.

How do I get into health informatics?

You can study foundation degrees, bachelor’s degrees and postgraduate qualifications in health informatics at a number of medical schools and universities, and the NHS also runs health informatics training courses for its staff.

However, because health informatics is so broad it requires lots of different people with lots of different skills, so you don’t necessarily need any medical training depending on your area of interest. A maths qualification might be needed to compile audits, business studies would be useful for someone interested in improving the ways hospitals are managed, and even graphic design skills could help you to get a job creating leaflets and reports, to name just a few examples.

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