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    Choosing Between Health Informatics and Health Information Management

    By Dr. Matthew Caines

    As technological advancements continue to change the world, virtually every industry is dealing with how to better access, manage, interpret, and use various available data. The health care industry faces a unique set of challenges as the use of technology expands, because information in health care comes from so many different sources-patients, health care providers, pharmaceutical companies, insurance carriers, employers, government agencies, and more. Proper compilation, management, integration, and analysis of information depends on the development of complex and intricate data systems. 

    "To ensure that technology is incorporated properly within the healthcare industry, and to manage the increasing amount of available documentation, employers in the health sector are demanding their technology experts are experienced and specialized in the health care field," said Matthew Caines, DHEd, MPH, CHES, Kaplan University's department chair for public health, health education, health informatics, and health information management.

    Two specialized health care career paths dealing with technology have emerged to handle the tasks at hand. They are:*

    Your Future as a Health Data Analyst 

    Health information management (HIM), or health data management, is the practice of acquiring, organizing, and protecting health information in hospitals and other health care organizations, enabling the delivery of quality health care to the public. Over the past 10 years, there has been a dramatic shift in the health care industry from paper documentation to electronic records. In fact, as of January 2014, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, all health care providers are now required to adopt and demonstrate "meaningful use" of electronic medical records. Those deemed as not making the transition face substantial fines. With this sort of expectation and impact on the bottom line, the need for proper implementation of procedures has skyrocketed. Nearly every private and public medical provider needs an employee who knows how to be a health data analyst. Skills necessary for success in health data management include:

    • outstanding organizational skills;
    • knowledge of specific applications to gather and store records;
    • expertise in coding, billing, reporting, and classifications of disease;
    • keen sense of priorities in terms of maintaining privacy and security and compliance with standards and regulations; and
    • education in the field of health care administration.

    Health Informatics 

    The term health informatics (HI) describes the rapidly developing scientific field utilizing computer technology in the advancement of medicine. This field of study is broader than HIM, and career paths tend to lean more toward managerial positions, integral to the operation of a facility. Health informatics professionals are charged with designing and developing information systems and processes that improve quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of care. Responsibilities of a health informatics professional might include:

    • designing, developing, and assessing emerging technologies for a health organization;
    • maintaining and evaluating current database systems, computer networks, and Internet or multimedia applications;
    • evaluating the impact of information technology on the clinical process and understanding how to troubleshoot issues impacting outcome.

    Health informatics is a more mathematical profession than health information management. A health informatics professional might take on the role of data mining in the health sector. A fairly new concept in health care, data mining provides the methodology to analyze huge amounts of information and transform of that information into useful statistical data that can improve the health care environment. For instance, with data mining, it is possible to:

    • help insurance companies detect fraud, therefore lowering health care costs;
    • identify customer relations issues and potential areas for improvement;
    • assist physicians in recognizing better treatments and practices; and
    • aid patients in obtaining better and more affordable health care.

    Technology, Health Care, and the Future 

    Today, both of these fields are growing faster than average in terms of job availability. As technology becomes more refined and the health care industry's infrastructure becomes better able to adopt change, it is expected that even more jobs will become available for those pursuing technology degrees in the health care field.

    Dr. Matthew Caines is Academic Department Chair for the Master of Health Informatics, Master of Health Information Management, Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management, and Medical Billing and Coding Certificate programs.

    For more information on Kaplan University's Health Sciences Department, click here.

     

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