The Booming Field of Medical Informatics
Medical informatics, an esoteric, umbrella term referring to the analysis, application, storage, retrieval and dissemination of medical information, is making a rapid ascent within the lexicon of medicine. Specialists in this field work at the nexus of clinical medicine and information technology, using computerized systems to guide diagnosis, treatment and research. They may also bring expertise to the table in medical records coding, billing and reimbursement, and clinical analysis ? areas that are naturally information intensive. As the adoption of technology continues to take shape in the health care industry, the need for professionals possessing dual competency in medicine and technology will grow exponentially over the next twenty years.
Broad in its scope, the field of medical informatics intersects with myriad specialty areas that require the management of complex data. This information encompasses a broad set of uses, from clinical decision-making to research. Evidence-based medicine, a movement in the health care field, is partly driving informatics rise in importance. Accordingly, the need for knowledge management experts is fueling a new set of professional roles with job titles such as clinical information specialist and vice president of clinical information systems. The growth of new career paths is expected to gain momentum as the informatics field evolves in its complexity and direction.
For the prepared, opportunities will be ripe for the picking in myriad health care sectors. These include hospitals, public health clinics, physician group practices, pharmaceutical companies, medical software companies, consulting firms, federal and state health agencies, and insurance companies among others. The nationwide emphasis on electronic health records will create unprecedented career opportunities as the push toward integrating systems among disparate health care organizations reaches full trajectory.
While there is no single educational path, licensing or credentialing requirement to become a health informaticist, those who posess a degree in Health Information Management are prepared to bring an integrated package of competencies in IT and clinical medicine to the career and are most highly sought after. To prepare future entrants for the profession, growing numbers of traditional and online programs are sprouting up nationally to address the anticipated demand for talent. In particular, a bachelor?s degree in nursing combined with a master?s degree in informatics represents a proven route to top-tier positions in the field.
Because of the unique nature of the work, successful medical informatics professionals will need to possess a broad knowledge of the health care industry, including a working orientation to the third-party payor market. Strong interpersonal communication, conflict resolution and strategic thinking skills are also critical as these professionals are often called upon to bridge learning gaps between workplace colleagues, clinicians, patients, and the community at large. IT skills including competency with clinical software systems and data measurement tools are par for the course for any informatics professional.
As health industry reform efforts continue to spark widespread engagement of information systems, medical informatics professionals will be in great demand. Amid the need for clinical and decision-making tools that support the further expansion of the industry, this career promises to be one of the fastest-growing fields in the medical sector.
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