As our world grows, so does our knowledge. For healthcare, this means adapting to changes to increase our understanding of disease and the human body. More specifically, for American Healthcare, our adaptation must zero in on affordability, access, effectiveness, and shared data.
Thus, the creation of health informatics was born.
Health informatics lies at the intersection of healthcare and data management. This niche is gaining traction as technology has begun to inundate the healthcare field with electronic health records and wearable technology. Our healthy future is closely tied to our technological creations, and professionals that study health informatics can harness this co-habitation by researching data and drawing connections between the millions of patients that come into national hospitals every day. The health IT field incorporates the whole process from patient information collection, to organization, to analysis, to sharing, and care application.
Health informatics is not a new program, but it is in high demand within the medical industry as of late. The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) was the first university to receive accreditation for their Masters of Science in Health Informatics program in 1999, and the first to offer a hundred percent online version of the curriculum. The program gained momentum with the Affordable Care Act, as demand for Health IT increased alongside the mandatory Electronic Health Record implementation.
When asked about the program focus, Lawrence M. Pawola (PharmD, MBA), the Associate Dean of Academic Practice and Program Director at the University of Illinois at Chicago, stated in an interview with HIS Talk:
“Courses have been built to better understand the social and behavioral attitudes and issues that inhibit the effective use of information technology in healthcare organizations. Our faculty guides students to assimilate theory and apply it to everyday activities.”
With a strong emphasis on evidence based practice, research data collection, and patient security, the students of the Health IT programs through UIC have become some of the most coveted professionals to enter the field.
Evidence Based Practice (EBP) is a key to making healthcare more affordable in America. As Rutgers University explains in their infographic, it is one of the most promising cost-saving adjustments hospitals can make in our current age. EBP is the use of current best results to determine patient care, and health informatics can help collect the data surrounding best practices for patients of all sorts and distribute it on a national level. This in turn can improve the quality of care for millions and reduce the cost for taxpayers, patients, and hospitals.
Another large struggle in the modern day medical industry lies in patient centered care. WebMD and health misinformation is all too common in the patient’s online world. As Pawola points out, education at the patient’s level is the best way to mitigate patients seeking alternative options that are outside their best interest. Pawola states:
“I have found it important to follow up, question, observe, and be pleasant so that there is greater chance my patients will buy into my suggestions and ultimately see the benefits.”
Health informatics can help in this regard, as well, by providing direct access for patients to their healthcare records. If a patient is unsure of their medicinal restrictions, or has questions for the doctor, the answers are only an email or click away. Health IT professionals can protect their privacy, while still offering them the best doctor recommended actions.
The informatics program through UIC is relevant to every role, specialty, and component of healthcare. The degrees are even accessible for those without a background in medicine, and invaluable for those already working in the healthcare industry in any capacity. The combination of data collection, computer science, business administration, and medicine means almost any professional can join the ever-expanding field.
The programs through UIC under the informatics umbrella are growing on a regular basis. Now the program extends everywhere from bioinformatics (chemistry-focus) to consumer informatics (looking at the buying habits of patients). The primary goal of the department - and health informatics in general - is to make American healthcare more efficient, effective, and affordable for all.
Katie McBeth is a freelance writer out of Boise, ID, with extensive experience within the medical field and education. When she’s not writing about millennials or the advances of online education, she spends her free time training her dog Toby to herd her three annoying (but adorable) cats around her house. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth.