What is health informatics? (career and skills guide)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The health care industry generates a lot of data. As demand for health care continues to grow rapidly, the amount of data health care providers and related industries store on their IT systems also expands. If you're looking for an information technology role, are good at analysing data and want to work in the health care sector, a career in health informatics could be for you. In this article, we explain what health informatics is, the qualifications and skills you require for a career in this industry and how to find work in this field.

Related: What are health care manager responsibilities? (Plus FAQs)

What is health informatics?

Health informatics is a branch of the health care industry that uses digital information to improve patient care. Health informatics refers to the acquisition, retrieval, use and storage of information related to health care. Its purpose is to improve the collaboration between various health care providers. Since information is so vital when it comes to patient care, being able to access health records easily and sharing this information with other health care professionals, is a critical aspect of health care reform.

Health informatics is one of the fastest growing areas in the medical industry. It merges information technology in the health service with patient care. Not only does health informatics help medical professionals with record keeping, enabling them to access digital patient records, it provides managers with the information they require to improve services and gives patients ideas about how to stay healthy. It looks at how we gather, analyse and manage health data to improve health care services.

Related: What is a health service manager and how do you become one?

What are the different careers in health informatics?

The health informatics industry includes many different roles. From entry-level jobs in administration to project and programme management roles that require postgraduate qualifications, there are many different jobs within this sector. Many people find jobs in this industry after other roles in the health care sector, or from an IT or statistics background.

Jobs in health informatics can be split into the following areas:

  • Education and training: training staff to use up to date technology

  • Communication technology: developing the infrastructure for IT systems within the health service

  • Clinical informatics: gathering and analysing data for health professionals

  • Administering health records: working on collating, managing, storing and retrieving health records so doctors can diagnose and treat their patients

  • Managing information: working out ways to present health data to assist with patient care

  • Information services: providing staff, the public and patients with a library and other services to access information

  • Project management: Implementing digital systems to place informatics on the frontline of health care

Related: The importance of project management in healthcare

How to train in health informatics

Health informatics is a rapidly growing area of the health care industry and there is a big demand for qualified professionals. There is a range of entry-level jobs that you can apply for from school or college, but higher paid jobs, such as project managers, senior software developers and analysts require a degree or postgraduate qualification. As the industry develops, there are now specific Masters degrees or postgraduate diplomas in health informatics. Here are some steps you can take to pursue a career in health informatics:

1. Obtain a good secondary school education

To work as an information clerk or another similar entry-level role, it isn't always necessary to have formal qualifications. Obtaining a good secondary school education with at least five GCSEs, including English and Maths, improves your opportunities. You may consider taking A' Levels in subjects such as information technology, computer science, maths or maths statistics.

2. Take an apprenticeship

There are apprenticeships available in health informatics, both at an intermediate and advanced level. This route offers the opportunity to work and earn an income while training for a career in an expanding industry. These apprenticeships with the health service take between one and five years to complete.

3. Study for a degree

Most positions in the health informatics field require a bachelor's degree in a computer science, maths, information technology or IT management subject. You may consider taking a degree in nursing or another health profession and then taking additional courses related to the technology of health care. Many universities now offer specific postgraduate degrees in health informatics.

4. Take a postgraduate qualification

It's a good idea to take a master's degree in health informatics to help you stand out among the applicants for positions in this industry. These qualifications help you to gain a greater understanding of the different computer programmes available and help you become familiar with collecting, analysing and storing patient data. Some examples of postgraduate degrees include:

  • Health Informatics with Data Science MSc

  • MSc Health Informatics

  • PG Cert Health Informatics

  • PG Diploma in Health Informatics

5. Look for internships

Many organisations and employers provide internships in the field of health informatics. It may be possible to work as an intern while still at university during the summer holidays, for example. This provides hands-on experience and is very valuable for your CV. You may also find you can stay on and receive a job offer after you complete your degree. Establishing connections with people in the sector can help you develop your career.

Related: The top 23 data analyst skills for CVs (with details)

Why work in health informatics?

A career in health information offers the chance to work in a rapidly growing sector of the health industry. There are many different roles with various responsibilities, so this career can appeal to a wide variety of people. Working in this career offers the chance to make a lasting impact within the industry.

Since health informatics is an interdisciplinary career, it provides the opportunity to combine a career in the health service along with IT skills and computer science. People working in this field can help patients without being responsible for direct medical care. Health informatics is a thriving industry with plenty of opportunities to develop your career and learn new skills.

Related: A guide to science degrees: courses, careers and salaries

Jobs in health informatics

There is a wide range of jobs within the health informatics sector. Some require postgraduate education, but you can find other roles that don't require a degree. Here's a list of the common types of jobs in this field:

1. Medical notes summariser

National Average Salary: £20,912 per year

Primary duties: The main role of a medical records notes summariser is to sort patient records and letters. They review medical records and produce a summary of a patient's medical history. This role also involves filing and organising patient records, filling in the paperwork and streamlining a GP's correspondence.

2. Clinical data analyst

National Average Salary: £33,508 per year

Primary duties: A clinical data analyst develops and manages databases for health care systems and organisations. They review data to check for accuracy and reliability. Additional duties include managing data processes and working with teams of researchers to make sure they record accurately the data they collect. They develop testing systems, software programmes and research data analysis to ensure it is up to date and relevant.

3. Clinical informaticist

National Average Salary: £46,626 per year

Primary duties: This management role involves developing digital solutions to improve health services. The duties in this position may include looking for solutions to problems with electronic record systems, managing staff working in this area, assessing technological advancements and recommending updates. You may also plan work programmes and the operational management of health information systems and provide guidance and support on the impact of new systems.

4. Data scientist

National Average Salary: £49,765 per year

Primary duties: A data scientist working in the health sector builds solutions for effective data management. They develop algorithms to extract data and employ machine learning tools and other techniques to uncover solutions for greater accuracy and better data management. Other duties may include researching opportunities for better prototypes, using datasets and insights and looking for new algorithms to solve issues.

5. Health information technician

National Average Salary: £30,688 per year

Primary duties: Health information technicians work with health care organisations to manage medical records and make sure the information held in a patient's record is accurate and safe. Some positions in this specialism are entry-level roles, but others require a degree in IT. Duties may include processing medical records and other information that patients, nurses, doctors and other health care staff provide. They may also enter and analyse data and manage new health record systems.

Differences between health informatics and IT

Health information technology concerns computer systems that operate in health care settings and hospitals. It works to maintain and ensure the smooth running of operating systems and computer programmes. Health informatics uses those software programmes to promote greater patient welfare and to analyse trends in health care.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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