Close Menu

What is Health Informatics? A Career Guide

Feb 28, 2024
5 min Read
Creighton University Staff

The amount of digital data worldwide is astounding—and it is only growing. In 2018, there were 33 zettabytes of data (one zettabyte is equal to one trillion gigabytes). Marketing intelligence firm International Data Corporation predicts that will increase to 175 zettabytes by 2025.

The healthcare industry makes up a large portion of this data, generating as much as 30% of the world's data, according to a study by Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and Arcadia. A study by International Data Corporation found that healthcare data is on track to have a growth rate of 36% through 2025—a substantial leap, with health-related data expanding faster than data generation in other major industries.

“Healthcare will only become more data- and tech-driven,” says Joy Doll, the program director of the health informatics program and resident associate professor at Creighton University. “We need a workforce that can give reliable, actionable feedback so the tech solutions that are integrated into the health systems are helpful to providers and patients.”

That’s where health informatics comes into play. In this article, we’ll not only define health informatics but also share how you can get involved in this increasingly important field.

Health informatics defined

According to the American Medical Informatics Association, health informatics is “the science of how to use data, information and knowledge to improve human health and the delivery of healthcare services.”

Doll says the goal of health informatics is to make sense of the data and improve interoperability—the way data can be securely exchanged between systems.

“If you go to your primary care provider, they will take your weight and your blood pressure—those are all metrics that go into the electronic health record (EHR),” she says. “How is that data taken from the EHR, put into the patient portal and presented in a way that patients can understand? And if you get your blood pressure taken at one clinic, and then you go to another, is that data going to come through and be the same data point and have the same information?”

There are a few different practice areas that fall under the umbrella of health informatics:

  • Translational bioinformatics: Researching and developing methods to translate and transform data into health.
  • Clinical research informatics: Using informatics methods to discover and manage new findings related to health and disease.
  • Clinical informatics: Applying information technology and technology in the delivery of healthcare services.
  • Consumer health informatics: Creating information structures and processes that allow people to manage their own health.
  • Public health informatics: Applying informatics methods in the public health arena, including outbreak management and prevention, biosurveillance and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
  • Population health informatics: Risk scoring and stratifying healthcare resources around a specific patient population using electronic health records and public health trends.

What can you do with a master's in health informatics?

Healthcare industry leaders are excited to work with Creighton University’s graduates from the master’s in health informatics program, says Doll, especially as the industry continues to add more roles.  

This is evidenced by current job growth data. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of health information technologists (and medical registrars) is projected to grow 16% from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations. 

“The master’s in health informatics helps people get formal training that is based on best practices and evidence,” Doll says. “There are huge opportunities after getting the degree.”  
Some of the industries in which graduates could end up working include:

  • Public health organizations
  • Insurance companies      
  • Electronic health record companies
  • Digital health companies
  • Health information exchanges
  • Healthcare organizations
  • Health tech startups
  • Cybersecurity companies
  • Quality improvement organizations

While the BLS has yet to create a specific labor designation for health informatics, there are many jobs available to people with this degree:

  • Clinical informatics specialists  
  • Health data scientists  
  • Health data quality managers
  • Health IT project managers
  • Privacy officers  
  • Chief medical information officers  
  • Directors of clinical informatics  
  • Clinical analyst/clinical data analysts
  • Health informatics consultants
  • Health informatics directors
  • Health information technologists

Who is a good fit for this program?

If you’ve ever wanted to make an impact on healthcare, health informatics is a great way to do so, even if you aren't a clinician.

“People think that to make an impact on healthcare, you must be by the bedside, but that is not the only way,” says Doll. “Health informatics needs skilled, passionate people to go in and help solve a lot of these problems that impact patients.”

The two most important attributes someone working in health informatics should have, says Doll, are a passion for problem solving and the ability to work cross-functionally with a variety of professionals. One day you could be determining how to securely transfer data from one system to another, and the next day you could be identifying the data points needed to create a visual representation of what you’re working on. And you’ll do that while acting as a mediator between clinicians and technologists to ensure the end results meet everyone’s needs.

“If you're willing to problem solve and you want to work with different people who are interested in making an impact, health informatics may be a great fit,” says Doll.

Start your career in health informatics

Whether you’re a clinician who wants to learn how to code and visualize health data, have a computer programming background and want to understand the policy and guidance around health data, or just want to make positive changes in the healthcare industry, a graduate degree in health informatics may be right for you.

The industry needs more people. According to The American Health Information Management Association, inadequate staffing resources is considered a critical challenge.  

“There is a strong demand in healthcare for people who understand and can visualize data,” says Doll. “Our master’s degree program is meant to help solve for that.”

If you’re ready to start on your path toward a career in health informatics, learn more about Creighton’s master's degree in health informatics or connect with a Creighton student success manager.