Informatics has become an increasingly important part of health care, but working in this field is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
Carolyn Harmon, Capella University’s lead faculty for nursing informatics, explains the different informatics roles across all of health care and how their functions sometimes overlap.
Health Care Leadership
As the description implies, health care informaticists are focused on leading the way. Generally this will include members of the C-suite or other high-level managers who are examining the business big picture.
When it comes to informatics, their interest lies in:
- Making decisions on investments for technology (new, upgrades, optimizations, maintenance, staffing).
- Ensuring informatics is aligned with the strategic plan of the organization.
- Using informatics to monitor regulatory compliance and accreditation.
- High-level oversight of projects and timelines.
- Using data analytics from the financial system, electronic medical records (EMR), etc. for decision-making.
Informatics helps health care leaders oversee the entire system, ensuring it functions as efficiently as possible while providing the best outcomes for patients.
A nursing informaticist is the key liaison between IT professionals and clinicians. They use informatics to understand patient and clinical needs as well as business and IT needs, and to support continuity and quality of care across caregivers. This means understanding the different languages used across nursing, IT, and business. As Harmon notes, “A nursing informatics professional speaks both IT and nursing languages. So they know that when a nurse says ‘SOB,’ it means ‘short of breath,’ which may not be what the IT person thinks it means!”
The nursing informatics role involves talking to nurses and the chief nursing officer, if there is one, to determine what kind of data or processes are needed. They may also be involved in:
- Implementing EMRs and making sure they capture information at the point of care accurately and in a standard format.
- Managing, interpreting, and communicating data to improve clinical practice.
- Integrating ICD-10 into systems.
- Developing research studies.
- Using technology to streamline workflow.
“It’s a huge role,” says Harmon, often extending beyond a clinical setting. “EMR vendors hire nursing informaticists for programming, consulting, sales, data analyses, and leadership and educator roles.”
IT professionals in informatics work to support leadership and clinicians in the following ways:
- Installing and implementing hardware and software that brings health care operations into regulatory compliance.
- Working with clinicians to develop technical ways of achieving better patient outcomes, whether that’s through research or improved workflow.
- Deploying or replacing equipment and upgrades.
- Testing hardware and software for QA.
- Writing code for reports, clinical decision support features, customizations, optimizations, etc.
- Operating the call center and troubleshooting user issues to either fix immediately or route to the appropriate person to fix.
Regardless of informatics subfield, “The true number-one priority is your patient,” says Harmon. Each form of informatics has its own focus, but the underlying drive is the patient, and the health care system that supports that patient.
Capella offers programs in health care and nursing informatics:
- Bachelor’s in IT, Health Information Management
- Bachelor’s in Health Administration, Health Information Management
- Master’s in Nursing Informatics
- RN-to-MSN Nursing Informatics
- Certificate in Nursing Informatics
- MHA in Health Care Informatics
- Certificate in Health Care Informatics
- Certificate in Health Care Informatics and Information Technology