Health Informatics is an interdisciplinary field combining information science and health care to create and execute policies, technologies, and guidelines based on the analysis of information across health fields. Health Informatics studies the design, development, adoption and application of information technology in the delivery, managment and planning of healthcare services. It looks at the ways in which computer science and other information technologies can be implemented into healthcare and enhance the current structure. Health informatics has become a more prominent field with the rise of the technological revolution; new technologies allow for a more systematic and uniform health system in its health care policy, research, and patient care.
- 1 Applications
- 2 Education
- 3 Ethical Issues
- 4 Related Fields
- 5 See Also
- 6 References
Electronic Medical Records
Electronic Medical Records are a virtual documentation of all a patient’s medical history, particularly at a specific location. Generally, the records are isolated to the location in which they are created: the hospital, private practice, or clinic. Electronic medical records offer an advantage internally, as they allow for all records to be chronicled uniformly in one location. Doctors in different departments have access to the same information in real time. Also, it is beneficial when the same Electronic Medical Record software is used among neighboring hospitals, healthcare systems, and private physician practices. This cohesiveness makes patient-physician referrals easier, as well as keeping everyone on the same page regarding a specific patient, even if the patient uses different hospitals, healthcare systems, doctors, etc.
In addition to the advantages electronic medical records provide, integrating technology into health care helps medical professionals with diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment recommendations. While the training practitioners get is hard to replace, technological advances can find the miniscule details and retain greater amount of information than a provider can, thus assisting the doctor or nurse in his/her decisions about the patient. This is a key purpose of a successful health informatics system.
Similar to clinical improvements, medical education is approached differently across throughout the world. Research has been conducted on the effectiveness of different techniques that allow for the best teaching methods to be used. In addition, new technologies such as the use of simulation, give students more realistic ways to practice medicine. This can include patient simulator models for medical and nursing students. When studying anything across the health field, health informatics allows the theories to be studied, analyzed, and executed with greater precision.
As patient’s reliance on online resources for health increases, hospital, and other health care networks, have answered the demand with online resources. Health informatics analyzes the way in which these are working and the most effective ways to use them and reach audiences. Having these resources allow health care networks to implement the best online mechanisms to help patients. No longer is the typical doctor-patient interaction the face-to-face check-up. There is now a dynamic level of communication in order for the best treatment to be reached.
In order to test theories within hospitals, patient care, and biomedical research, models can be well applied and then their progress analyzed through health informatics. As more information is gathered for research, the skills needed to analyze the data increases in difficulty. Health informatics allows researchers to more efficiently and effectively perform data analysis.
It has taking Hospitals quite some time to implement health informatics, because of the federal guidelines that go into meeting the requirements to have health informatics fully operational at these health facilities. These guidelines are what make up the standard called "meaningful use". Meaningful use according to Health IT.gov must meet these core requirements now and others later on in the future:
1. Electronically capturing health information in a standardized format
2. Using that information to track key clinical conditions
3. Communicating that information for care coordination processes
4. Initiating the reporting of clinical quality measures and public health information.
5. Using information to engage patients and their families in their care
Stage Two(2014): Advance clinical processes
1. More rigorous health information exchange (HIE)
2. Increased requirements for e-prescribing and incorporating lab results
3. Electronic transmission of patient care summaries across multiple settings
4. More patient-controlled data
Stage Three(2016): Improved outcomes
1. Improving quality, safety, and efficiency, leading to improved health outcomes
2. Decision support for national high-priority conditions
3. Patient access to self-management tools
4. Access to comprehensive patient data through patient-centered HIE
5. Improving population health
The health informatics field is mostly integrated into the education system at the graduate school level. Such programs are interdisciplinary and therefore often involve multiple fields of expertise. For example, at the University of Michigan, both the School of Information and the School of Public Health, emphasizing the overlapping nature of the discipline, facilitate the master’s degree program. There are over 200 accredited programs in the United States for Health Informatics or a related degree. These degrees can be earned both in person and often times online as well.
The bureau of labor statistics predicted that the field of Health Informatics is going to increase by more than 20% from 2013-2020.  There has been an increase in interest in pursuing further education in health informatics. It focuses on how to use innovation and technology to help in the area of public health.
Top Online Universities
The top 10 schools to receive online masters for healthcare informatics are as follows:
- Northwestern University
- University of Illinois at Chicago
- The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) at Houston, School of Biomedical Informatics
- Brandeis University, Graduate Professional Studies
- Boston University
- University of San Fransisco
- University of Cincinnati
- University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine
- Rutgers University, School of Health Related Professions
- University of Tennessee, Health Science Center
The list continues here
Top In-Person Universities
The top 10 schools to receive a masters degree in healthcare informatics are as follows:
- University of Washington
- Ohio State University
- University of Alabama
- Rutgers the State University of New Jersey
- Indiana University
- University of Pittsburgh
- University of Illinois
- University of South Carolina Upstate
- Marshall University
- Regis University
The list continues here
One of the greatest issues facing health informatics is that of privacy. With electronic medical records, a patient’s entire health history is accessible to unauthorized people through hacking or a misplaced device. A resource needed to gain full advantage of the health informatics resources is money. Small private practices, or other networks without large amounts of funding, are not able to gain access to and use the technologies that can help streamline their practices. EMRs require computers, programs, and labor to transfer the records from paper to digital. The computer programs needed to raise research to the best level possible require training and are expensive. These divides that come from monetary differences could ultimately put smaller businesses out of difference and reduce competition.
A patient’s health history should be kept confidential between the patient and the healthcare provider, but with the development of electronic medical records, a patient’s entire health history can be accessible not only to doctors and healthcare providers, but also hackers and employees who mishandle the healthcare informatics software. The International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) states, “All persons have a fundamental right to privacy, and hence to control over the collection, storage, access, use, communication, manipulation, and disposition of data about themselves.” Health Informatics Professionals have a duty to keep patient information private. Health Informatics Professionals must ensure that patient information is not disclosed to other healthcare companies, organizations, or other unauthorized personnel without the consent of the patient. As Hamman W. Samuel, or the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada states in his essay Towards a Definition of Health Informatics Ethics, “Every person has the right to decide how much information they wish to disclose about themselves, and what information they wish to withhold. Furthermore, individuals have the right to control what information is collected, how it is stored, and used.”The increasing use of electronic medical records might make it harder to ensure privacy, but it is the ethical duty of Health Informatics Professionals to uphold these ethical standards.
Similar to information privacy, Health Informatics Professionals must ensure the information security of their patients. In his essay, Hamman Samuel states, “Data collected must be protected. Once data is collected, it must be safeguarded against unauthorized access by other parties. In addition, the data needs to be protected against manipulation, both malicious and unintentional.” The information collected from patients is private information, and must remain that way unless the patient consents to release their records.
If Health Informatics Professionals and healthcare organizations plan on Data Mining, or collecting data from patients to store in a database for use in future projects, they must maintain open communications with the patients and obtain their consent. Samuel defines this “openness,” saying, “Data collection about any person must be done transparently. This implies that the person about whom the data is being collected needs to be informed of the intent for collecting data and what the data will be used for.”
Electronic Medical Software
Engineers that design the software controlling the electronic medical records must implement extensive testing to ensure that the health informatics software keeps patient medical records private and secure. Grodzinsky’s ideas of ethics relate to software engineers and the responsibility and accountability of electronic medical records being made available to the public. Samuel states, “Software products should meet expected professional standards. Developers should strive to build products that are not sub-standard. Developers should ensure that the product is thoroughly tested and debugged, and unsolved problems are documented.” For example, if hackers are able to access private medical records and use them without the consent of the patients, the software engineers could be held responsible and liable for potential damage done to the patients with their information being released to the public. Thus, “Re-training and improvement is to be pursued by the software developer.” It is also the responsibility of the software designers to teach Health Informatics Professionals and other healthcare workers the correct way to use the medical software to minimize problems.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was put in place in order to clearly ensure a patient’s privacy and security rights. It states that, except in certain circumstances, a patient’s information is private and cannot be shared by a healthcare provider publically. However, when a patient’s records are digitized, the risk of information being accessed by those not authorized increases. With multiple devices (tablets, computers, mobile devices, etc.) being able to get the information, a doctor’s intention to follow HIPPA might not be enough when the records are stored digitally.
Fields related to health informatics include biostatistics and bioinformatics. The significant difference between these two fields and health informatics is the focus of health informatics on the medical system more than the medicine. Health informatics attempts to integrate technology into how the research is done, how the hospital is run, and how medicine is taught. It doesn’t necessarily change the material, as biostatistics and bioinformatics do. The other two fields’ research is attempting to expand our view of medicine.
- Increase in field
- The IMIA Code of Ethics for Health Information Professionals
- Towards a Definition of Health Informatics Ethics
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