The health care system relies heavily on the use of Health Informatics. The use of this digital system has tremendously changed the way health information has been documented, relayed and secured. With this growing field, Health Informatics Professionals are continuously sought after by health care facilities. Due to the high demands and in need of special skill set, there are criteria that needs to be met by certain health informatics professionals in order to function and perform their duties properly.
In this evolving field, health informatics professionals are expected to have technical, clinical and administrative/governance skills (Grain & Coote, 2013). For technical skills, technical mechanisms must be understood in order to provide proper representation, collection, storage and dissemination of data. For the clinical skills, health informaticians should be knowledgeable with how the health care system operates and the clinical processes in order to provide and process clinically safe health data collection, retrieval and release. As for the Administrative/governance skills, one must possess proper understanding of how to carry out and management of projects, decision making processes and possible threats that could be caused by the use of technology in healthcare. It is also imperative to be knowledgeable on the legal and reporting requirements of data to ensure clinical relevance and safety.
Just like in other professions, experience and education are a big part of health informatics in order to build clinical competence and advance in the field. According to the Australian College of Health Informatics, there are levels in Health Informatics Educational Framework (Liaw & Gray, 2010). The clinical professionals are considered to be the “users” and have basic knowledge on health data and information management, health care organization and administration, electronic health records, telemedicine, E-health, etc. The ability to use educational technologies effectively is often assumed to be one aspect of clinical health informatics competence (Liaw & Gray, 2010). Besides the technical and clinical expertise and experience, to advance and assume higher positions, graduate level education and higher are also considered. Many educational facilities and universities provide online programs to attain this level of education. It is imperative to have personnel in the higher positions in order to manage and oversee the scope of health informatics and to ensure that the staff are complying with the proper protocol and that the goals are met.
The profession play a critical role in the health informatics in the health care system. The professionals to include analysts, auditors, encoders, data managers and the rest of the team provide mission critical skills in order to protect the patients’ health information. The revolution in health information and systems requires a strong workforce with the skills needed to build and advance healthcare through the use of technology (Grain & Coote, 2013). To join the revolution, we all need new skills to support and enable change. All people who work in healthcare, including clinicians, need to understand the potential benefits, user requirements and their clinical patient safety responsibilities when working in an electronic enabled environment. (Liaw & Gray, 2010)
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). The bible verse is related to professionalism. Just like the health informatics professionals, they are working with health information and data and they are subjected to comply with their sworn profession, to provide protection to information in the health care system.
34 Bible verses about professionalism. (2021, February 2). Retrieved February 9, 2021, from https://www.openbible.info/topics/professionalism
Grain, H., & Coote, A. (2013). The Health Informatics Professions. Health Information Governance in a Digital Environment, 169-185. doi:10.3233/978-1-61499-291-2-169
Liaw, S. T., & Gray, K. (2010). Clinical health informatics education for a 21st century world. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, 151, 479-491.
Roles and functions of the HI professionals
“Health information professionals have traditionally been involved with ensuring the standardization and integrity of patient data as well as analyzing the data they collect” (Shanholtzer & Ozanich, 2016, p. 276). Health informatics (HI) professionals are basically trained professionals in charge of collecting, storing, and organizing data to improve the services provided by the healthcare industry. Collecting and managing an institution’s database is becoming more complex hence the rise in the demand for HI professionals by healthcare institutions. Garde et al. (2005) developed a five knowledge/skills framework to reflect the unique skills and knowledge set for HI professionals, these include:
1. Specific health informatics knowledge/skills.
2. Information technology knowledge/skills.
3. People and organizational knowledge/skills.
4. Clinical, medical, and related knowledge/skills.
5. Various other knowledge/skills. (para. 6)
HI professionals are required to possess the ability to work with health data systems. For example, the knowledge and skills of HI professionals may include, management of health information systems, telemedicine/e-health, coding and classification, medical robotics, health data, information, and knowledge management, among others. Another skill set HI professionals are required to possess is information technology skills. The HI professional must be vested in the following programming skills/knowledge: programming principles, programming languages, modeling, database design, database management, speech recognition, and user interface design, among others (Garde et al., 2005).
The next set of skills an HI professional is required to have are people and organizational knowledge/skills. For example, effective communication between health and IT professionals is a valuable skill in the Healthcare industry. The HI professional would generally be working with very complex information, such as large clinical data sets or revenue reports. Being able to communicate this information accurately and clearly is just as important as the collection, storage, and management of the data. Other examples of people and organizational knowledge skills include project management, change management, risk management, and social competency, among others. Due to the nature of the environment in which HI professionals work, it is required that they receive some form of clinical and medical-related education. These may include anatomy, physiology, clinical guidelines, biochemistry, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies, among others. Other skills pertinent to the success of an HI professional is the ability to solve problems that may come in the form of improving patient data or improving the IT system.
While informatics in medicine is increasing the usefulness of patient data, a federal mandate for “meaningful use” of digitized patient records plus financial incentives for creating and maintaining electronic health records are putting pressure on even the smallest clinics to use computers to improve care. As a result, job opportunities in the health informatics field are increasing. The health information management and health informatics programs referred to as HIIM programs, are found at the associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degree levels. These programs present some potential opportunities to advance in the field of HI (Shanholtzer & Ozanich, 2016). The top seven career paths of HI professionals include pharmacy or nutrition informaticist, clinical informaticist, informatics analyst, nurse informaticist, informatics specialist, informatics manager, and informatics director. These positions serve as an integral part of the healthcare delivery process. These positions are crucial to the overall healthcare delivery process because they provide better collaboration and coordination among healthcare providers, streamline medical quality assurance processes, improving cost-efficiency in healthcare delivery and increase accuracy and efficiency in facility and practice management.
Providing quality healthcare is one of the important goals of running a healthcare institution. The various career path to becoming an HI professional as mentioned in the previous paragraph all play a part in providing quality healthcare to the patient. HI professionals make it possible for patients to access health information and health services, improved patient care and safety, greater coordination of care, and more empowered patients (Snyder et al., 2011). For example, the Release of Information Coordinator enlighten patients about the information and functions available to them through the portal, educating them on how to sign up to use the portal and showing them how to keep their health information private and secure. (Shanholtzer & Ozanich, 2016).
In a nutshell, HIM roles, and skills are likely to move toward analytical thinking process design, project management, cross operational management across divisions within an organization, and change management among others (Gibson et al., 2015). The roles and functions of the HIM professional are not something that can be stagnant, and once a model is built it must continue to change and evolve. It includes many avenues to pursue, and just when you think you have reached your final role, another appears (Gibson et al., 2015). Proverbs 19: 2 says that “desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (English Standard Version). This scripture affirms the need to acquire knowledge. An individual who is seeking to become an HI professional must not cut corners but should go through the required education and training process to be deemed as a qualified HI professional.
English Standard Version Bible. (2016). Bible Gateway. http://www.biblegateway.com/ (Original work published 2001)
Garde, S., Harrison, D., & Hovenga, E. (2005). Skill needs for nurses in their role as health informatics professionals: A survey in the context of global health informatics education. International Journal of Medical Informatics (Shannon, Ireland), 74(11-12), 899-907. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2005.07.008
Gibson, C. J., Dixon, B. E., & Abrams, K. (2015). Convergent evolution of health information management and health informatics: A perspective on the future of information professionals in health care. Applied Clinical Informatics, 6(1), 163-184. https://doi.org/10.4338/ACI-2014-09-RA-0077
Shanholtzer, M.B. & Ozanich, G. (2016). Health Information Management and Technology (1st ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Snyder, C. F., Wu, A. W., Miller, R. S., Jensen, R. E., Bantug, E. T., & Wolff, A. C. (2011). The role of informatics in promoting patient-centered care. Cancer Journal (Sudbury, Mass.), 17(4), 211. https://doi.org/10.1097/PPO.0b013e318225ff89