Health Information Management vs. Health Informatics

A health informatics specialist enters data on a computer.

Health data is crucial for establishing a patient health record and providing accurate care to individuals and populations. This is especially true in public health, where tracking diseases and viral infections is vital to understanding and preventing debilitating illnesses from spreading. Health data also benefits individuals, as access to health information like clinical records, physician notes and examination results can help build better long-term and emergency care for patients.

Most health information is digitized, which allows health care professionals to access a wide assortment of data quickly and efficiently. Health data will continue to grow as organizations adopt and utilize electronic health records. Those who develop the infrastructure dedicated to storing, retrieving and analyzing health information and those who manage patient data to ensure it remains accurate and confidential will be increasingly critical to health care industries.

Health information management (HIM) and health informatics professionals help distribute and manage health data but focus on different aspects of maintaining these record systems. Understanding the differences between health information management vs. health informatics, including essential skills, educational requirements and salary information, can help professionals align their skill development to the career path that best suits their goals.

What Is Health Information Management?

Health information management is a field in health care dedicated to handling health data. This data includes information like patients’ medical history, lab test results and records of medical procedures. The professionals in this field utilize health information systems to increase the accessibility of health information while working to ensure patient confidentiality and adhering to strict ethical guidelines and policies.

Careers in Health Information Management

Health data management is vital across the health care industry, and professionals with a background in health information management can find careers ranging from entry-level to executive positions. Here are a few examples of careers in this field:

  • Health information technician: These professionals collect patient data, including symptoms and medical history, ensuring the data is correctly entered into a health information system and updated as necessary.
  • Health information manager: These professionals supervise employees responsible for health information collection and ensure data is maintained and accessed ethically and in compliance with policy.
  • Chief privacy officer: These professionals create and maintain the policies governing patient information utilization, ensuring they follow local and state laws.

What Is Health Informatics?

Health informatics exists at the crossroads between health care and technology. It involves organizing and storing health information and data so that it is accessible to health care professionals and patients. These professionals design and implement health information systems, using data to improve their security and communication between various parties.

Health care professionals use the systems created by health informatics professionals to ensure consistent patient care. These systems facilitate accurate health records across patient care. They can be updated in real time, relaying essential health data to relevant parties quickly through digital software and websites.

Insurance agents use these systems to establish payments for specific procedures and consultations, and public health analysts, like those in biostatistics and epidemiology, use them to better understand ongoing illnesses through an accumulation of large amounts of health data.

Environmental scientists might also use these systems to determine how specific populations are affected by local environmental phenomena, like the effects of fracking on communal health.

Careers in Health Informatics

Those looking to work with data directly by building systems and using them for analysis may consider health informatics career options. Here are a few career options in the field of health informatics:

  • Health informatics specialist: These professionals work in various health care settings to collect and organize health data, with specific duties ranging from data analysis to improving health systems through project management and consulting.
  • Clinical informatics analyst: These professionals work to compile clinical health data, analyzing it to help organizations modify their policies and best practices to improve patient outcomes.
  • Public health analyst: These professionals develop and implement health information systems to research and combat public health issues. For example, they may analyze symptoms and causes of diseases in a large populace.

Health Information Management vs. Health Informatics: Key Differences

Both health information management and health informatics utilize and work with health data, but their differences should be considered when determining which career path to follow. Here are a few of the key differences between each field.

Education Requirements

Health information management and health informatics careers overlap regarding high-level medical terminology knowledge and private patient information regulation. While both career paths typically require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, with many favoring those with advanced degrees, there are a few options to consider when selecting degree programs, concentrations or elective courses that focus on the specific areas of each field.

Those more interested in the management aspects of health information careers may consider degrees covering health administration, focusing on courses covering health service management, accounting and health care policy. While professionals in either field can benefit from a background in technical subjects, courses covering health data management, health information systems and how to use data for public health research will naturally benefit those seeking health informatics careers.

Key Skills

While health information management and health informatics professionals need similar skills, there are a few key skills professionals in each field can benefit from developing. For example, health information management candidates should be able to ensure accuracy and organization in maintaining health information. Some specific skills for health information management careers can include:

  • Health care knowledge: To ensure accuracy when managing health data, health information management professionals should have a strong knowledge of anatomy and physiology to ensure data is consistent and clear within databases. They should also be aware of health care policy, know what information is confidential and ensure only the correct stakeholders can access requested information.
  • Attention-to-detail: As health information is frequently shared between professionals at different departments and even industries, data must be inputted correctly to ensure patients receive the correct care and that professionals using collected data work with as few errors as possible.
  • Organizational skills: Ensuring health data remains organized helps smooth communication between professionals and patients and reduces errors, which may stall or prevent patients from receiving care.

Health informatics careers often develop skills related to information technology, as their role focuses on developing and implementing health information systems. Some specific skills may include:

  • Health data knowledge: To build a system that best supports health care professionals and patients, health informatics professionals need to know what data is necessary and how to organize it clearly and concisely.
  • Computer science: While those in health informatics roles may not need programming knowledge, they should be well-versed in computer science and IT to develop and implement health information systems. They may also work with IT professionals to help develop software and should be versed enough to communicate project needs and challenges.
  • Data analysis: Health informatics may work with research teams to analyze health data and may need to recognize data trends, presenting them visually to report their analysis.

Salary and Job Growth

While their salaries can depend on the specific career, in addition to factors like experience, education and location, health information management and health informatics careers support relatively high salaries with room for advancement. The median annual salary for health information managers is around $63,900, and the median annual salary for health informatics specialists is around $73,100, according to the compensation website Payscale.

The job outlook for both careers is promising. The projected job growth for health information technologists and medical registrars is 16 percent between 2022 and 2032, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This field covers many careers in health information management and health informatics and is significantly higher than the average 3 percent growth for all careers. The BLS attributes this to the increasing use of health care services and the amount of health data in need of management.

Discover Your Next Career Step in Public Health

Understanding the overlap and differences between health information management and health informatics is critical for determining the right career path. If you desire to design and implement health systems, whether for sharing resources between patients and physicians or in researching to improve public health, consider the benefits of Augusta University Online’s Master of Public Health with a concentration in Health Informatics program in your development toward a career in health data.

With a curriculum covering subjects like health management and policy, public health research and biostatistics, this program can help prepare you for health data analysis and utilizing health data ethically. With a concentration in health informatics, you’ll also learn the fundamentals of digital health information systems and data management.

Discover how you can make a difference in public health and beyond with Augusta University Online.

Recommended Readings
Fact vs Fiction: Augusta University Expert Says Students Need More Education About Social Media Use
MPH Requirements, Curriculum and Career Opportunities
3 Public Health Topics for Research

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Introduction to Public Health Informatics
Indeed, “6 Health Information Management Careers (Including Salaries)”
Indeed, “Health Information Management vs. Health Informatics”
Indeed, “What Is Health Informatics?”
Indeed, “What Is Health Information Management?”
Payscale, Average Health Informatics Specialist Salary
Payscale, Average Health Information Management (HIM) Manager Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Information Technologists and Medical Registrars

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