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Clinical informatics is a relatively new field that is growing by leaps and bounds. Where medical records used to be maintained on paper in endless filing cabinets, they are now stored on servers and data banks. Thus, the healthcare industry has needed to address this change in records keeping, so the field of clinical informatics has emerged.
These professionals receive much of the same training as information technology professionals. Some work on database design and construction, while others code the front-end so that medical professionals and their patients can easily access the data. Others might work on analyzing data to help improve patient outcomes. Therefore, informatics careerists not only study technology but they also study medical terminology and other pertinent information. In fact, many informatics professionals come to the career path from nursing, public health, and other allied health professions.
This page was created to help you learn more about the field so that you can decide if you’re interested in becoming a clinical informatics administrator or manager.
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What is a Clinical Informatics Administrator or Manager?
Clinical informatics is a field that has been booming since Congress' 2009 mandate that health systems convert all paper records to electronic databases. The field essentially applies the various tasks, skills, and tools of information technology to the medical field. Medical records databases are a huge concern for the field, but informatics specialists also build graphic user interfaces, address hardware and software problems, train staff on the systems, and monitor network traffic and usage.
Informatics professionals can work in a wide variety of settings. Many can be found working in hospitals or other large health systems, but they might also work in state or federal public health agencies. They can also work as independent contractors who are tasked with designing and implementing databases. Informatics workers can spend hours coding mobile apps that are designed for use by doctors, nurses, and even patients. Others might work to link departments and healthcare providers so that each patient's data is aggregated and accessible by their primary care physician and their team of nurses.
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Though clinical informatics administrators and managers are trained to perform many of the same duties as an information technology professional, their field is considered a medical sub-specialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties. This is because professionals need to fully understand the data they work with and work to achieve optimal patient outcomes just like any nurse, doctor, or allied health professional.
Along the way, informatics administrators or managers might be tasked with overseeing a team of data-entry professionals such as medical coders and transcriptionists. They also might need to train healthcare professionals on the proper use of a database and/or oversee user permissions and work to ensure data security, including encryption and passwords.
What is the Difference Between a Clinical Informatics Manager and Administrator?
The difference between a clinical informatics administrator and a clinical informatics manager depends very much on the health system you're working for. These terms can also have different meanings according to your region. Though the more common term is clinical informatics manager, you'll find the title administrator used in certain sub-specialties such as nursing informatics administration.
On the other hand, it's not uncommon to find informatics administrators in supervisory positions. In larger health systems they might oversee a team of informatics professionals. This may be due to the healthcare culture, which tends to prefer the term administrator when describing non-clinical workers within a hospital or other health system, including doctor’s offices.
When you seek out a job, be sure to review the description of both administrator and manager positions. Since the two terms can be used interchangeably, it's vital to make sure you apply for the job that best suits your skills and long-term career goals.
What are the Educational Requirements for Clinical Informatics Managers?
While certain corners of the information technology field still reward self-taught professionals, you will probably find more stringent educational requirements in clinical informatics. Though you can surely land an entry-level position with a two-year degree, you will find greater success if you start your career with a health informatics bachelor’s degree.
This is mostly due to the large volume of information you need to master for the position. Not only will you need to understand all of the technology, you will need to have a mastery of the medical terminology as well. On the other hand, if you have a bachelor’s degree in information technology, you might consider a graduate certificate in health informatics that will not only get you up to speed in your current position but also allow you to earn credits towards a master's degree.
Keep in mind that many employers seek licensed medical professionals such as registered nurses and graduate degrees such as a Master of Healthcare Administration or a Master of Public Health.
Since this field is still growing and encompasses such a wide range of skills and specialized knowledge, you should pursue the bachelor’s degree that best suits you. You might pursue a Bachelor of Public Health alongside information technology or computer science, for instance. On the other hand, you might land an informatics position with a Bachelor of Healthcare Administration.
Consider your long-term career goals. If you love the technology above all else, earn a degree in IT, computer science, health informatics, or computer information systems. If you find that your strengths lie more in working with people and patients, consider a degree in management with a concentration or minor that involves technology, such as database management or informatics.
You can also approach clinical informatics with a degree in a clinical field. In particular, those with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing have an easy time transitioning into informatics.
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A master's degree is increasingly desired in today's job market. For a career in clinical informatics, you should perhaps first consider a Master of Healthcare Informatics, but there are many options. For instance, some employers hire those with a Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Nursing, or Master of Healthcare Administration. If you can demonstrate aptitude and experience working with the technology side of your desired position, an employer may value a degree that is more focused on administration or clinical work. After all, clinical informatics melds administrative skill, clinical knowledge, and technological acumen into one dynamic career field.
Some courses that you might encounter on your way to a stellar career in informatics include, but are not limited to:
- Health and Clinical Informatics
- Computer Science
- Big Data
- Organizational Behavior
- Accounting for Managers
- Health Information Technology
- Evaluative Sciences
- Clinical Information Systems
- Data Science
Before you apply for a master's degree, consider accruing experience in the field so that you are certain that it's where you wish to focus your energies. Once you determine that this is the field for you, your experience will only strengthen your application. Furthermore, if you are working in the field, your employer might offer some tuition reimbursement for their prized employee.
Possible Career Roles and Job Titles
Clinical informatics is a term that applies across a wide range of careers and professional roles. In fact, nearly every aspect of the healthcare field can benefit from an approach that includes informatics. Where in the past, paper records had to be painstakingly sifted and sorted to study singular data points, now big data can be crunched in a matter of minutes. Those single data points can be quickly cross-referenced against other points and then analyzed in ways that were once virtually impossible.
- Pharmacy Informatics
The goal of this position is to improve overall efficiency for patients and healthcare providers. To succeed in this position, you will need a deep knowledge of pharmaceutical treatments and database technologies. Given that drug interactions are a huge cause of illness and death, an expertly designed cross-referencing system could save many lives. You could also be in charge of auditing automated dispensing cabinets, setting up bedside barcode systems, inventory management systems, E-prescription protocols, and tele-pharmacy, among other aspects of today's modern pharmacy.
- Nursing Informatics
This is a terrific career path for registered nurses who love working with technology and who want to bring a patient-centered viewpoint to healthcare technology. Essentially, this position integrates all the knowledge and practice involved in nursing with the databases, networks, and interfaces of the high-tech world. Many positions in this field require that professionals hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree and a current nursing license, though a master’s degree may be preferred. Nurses in sub-specialties such as pediatrics, mental health, and oncology can also join the ranks of informatics professionals.
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- Nutritional Informatics
This field endeavors to streamline data from areas such as health records, nutritional analytics, and apps. Informatics professionals work to focus all of this overwhelming information in ways that are helpful for dietitians, nutritionists, and their patients. Patients might be able to use a custom app to enter and analyze their daily nutritional intake in ways that provide them and their healthcare provider with the information they need to improve their diets and thus their overall health. The app might help them track their diet over time while simultaneously entering that data into a larger database for comparison with others using the same app. This field might require that its Informatics professionals be licensed nutritionists, though some employers may only seek the best technological skill.
- Mental Health Informatics
As the mental health field continues to evolve and grow, informatics professionals will be indispensable in synthesizing all of the various data points necessary to deliver the best, patient-centered care. There is sure to be crossover between mental health and other healthcare systems, as it is vital to track how certain addictive prescription medications are prescribed, used, and abused. Mental health informatics can also help assess the efficacy of new psychiatric medications. When such vast mental health databases are utilized, we are sure to see a sea-change in how we view psychology and mental health treatment.
- Public Health Informatics
Public health is an incredibly broad field that encompasses factors such as ethic demographics, environmental factors, employment, and economic trends. Thus, public health informatics professionals need to crunch a lot of data to make sure that their communities are prepared to respond to any widespread issues. Such an in-depth understanding of the public health picture can help prevent things such as pandemics when applied with professional skill. During the COVID-19 pandemic, informatics has helped professionals track how the virus spreads and impacts communities nationwide. The more communities know about how disease impacts their population, the better they can prepare and respond to all sorts of healthcare emergencies.
- Dental Informatics
When all of the data streams involved in dentistry are aggregated and assessed with the help of informatics professionals, overall dental health improves. The information gathered from the dental informatics community can even be shared with others involved in medical or mental health to see how the fields impact one another. For instance, a widespread nutritional deficit might first show itself in increased incidence of dental caries, but a cross-reference could show that it is impacting physical and mental health, too.
Certification or Continuing Education?
AMIA Health Informatics Certification
AMIA is the American Medical Informatics Association and they have assembled a commission that is responsible for planning a certification process. They were established in 2019 and in 2020 they will release the details surrounding how a professional becomes eligible for certification. They are also working on creating an examination and protocols for re-certification. The commission is made up of professionals who represent fields including nursing, health informatics, public health, pharmacy, medicine, dentistry, and nutrition.
Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems
This certification (CAHIMS) is provided by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and is designed to help new informatics professionals enter the field with the maximum amount of knowledge. The certification is also available for those with more experience. In fact, you can be eligible to sit for the examination with only a high school diploma. However, you must also have a minimum of 45 hours of continuing education in the field of healthcare information technology. HIMSS can provide more information regarding what sort of training programs or college courses qualify. Given the ease of entry to this field, a CAHIMS certification can be a terrific way to enter this booming, growth industry.
HIMSS does more than provide valuable certifications. Members are invited to attend their Global Health Conference as well as online opportunities to learn and grow. In fact, their website is full of webinar opportunities that help members maintain their certifications while developing in their careers.
Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems
For those with more experience, HIMSS offers the CPHIMS certification. This certification is available for those with a minimum of a bachelor's degree and five years of experience in information technology. Those with a graduate degree need only show three years of experience. However, those with ten years of experience in IT can apply, but only if eight of those years were in a health system.
This certificate must be renewed every three years. The renewal process can involve re-taking the HIMSS examination, but certificate holders can also show a record of continuing education. Continuing education must total 45 CEUs with a minimum of 25 hours from HIMSS or a provider who has received HIMSS approval. HIMSS provides an online CEU tracking widget to help certificate holders log and track their CEU progress.
The clinical informatics field is evolving rapidly. Since 2011, the American Board of Medical Specialties has considered informatics a medical specialty. The board certifies licensed physicians in this sub-specialty. However, those without an MD degree can work in informatics both with and without a license.
The position is still very much rooted in information technology, so many other positions only require a bachelor's degree in informatics that testifies to technical acumen and a familiarity with the medical information involved. On the other hand, one position that is noted for requiring current, valid licensure is nursing informatics. For those positions, employers frequently require an up-to-date nursing license and a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Other positions may also require state licensure, such as nutritional informatics and pharmacy informatics.
Salary and Career Outlook
Clinical informatics is a growing field. Since Congress mandated that all medical records be shifted from the old paper systems to electronic formats, there has been a push to train and hire these technological and medical experts. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't specifically list clinical informatics, they do show that medical records and health information technicians are slated to see a growth rate of 8% through 2029 and computer and information systems managers are projected to grow by 10% in the same time period.
As for salary, Payscale.com's statistics show a current average salary of $77,000 for clinical informatics. The top end is thus $109k and the lower end is $53k. These figures only factor in base salary and don't account for bonuses, benefits, and other compensation, including tuition reimbursement. Furthermore, the BLS shows that computer and information systems managers earn an average salary of $146k/year.