What Is the Impact of Informatics in Health Care?

By Jack SteinLast Updated Nov 3, 2020 2:27:17 AM ET
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Technology is rapidly improving and changing every aspect of the world, including health care. The same changes that led to huge improvements in fields like business or the sciences have also made treating patients easier and more effective than ever.

However, it's nearly impossible to discuss the role of technology in the medical field without acknowledging the impact of informatics in the field. From telemedicine to patient records, informatics have had a serious impact on health care

Understanding Informatics

In order to understand the profound impact informatics has had on health care, it's important to first understand what health care informatics is. Although it crosses into multiple fields and has varying definitions, generally speaking, informatics combines computer and information science, communications and health care to help better treat and serve patients. It offers a way for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to make more informed decisions based on data and ultimately provide better outcomes for patients. 

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It's also one of the fastest-growing job fields, in part because of the 2009 federal Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. This legislation required the medical field to pivot from using traditional paper documents for medical records to electronic health records. Combined with innovations in other health information technologies (HIT), this change made using and sharing information in health care both easier and more productive.

Informatics in Action

Informatics is an incredibly large and diverse field with many uses in the medical field. For instance, clinical informatics, also known as operational informatics, involves how information technologies can help clinicians treat their patients, including everything from general practitioners to radiologists. Meanwhile, public health informatics focuses on improving data delivery and assisting in disease intervention and prevention on a societal level, while nursing informatics help nurses and nurse practitioners to receive the support they need in the field. 

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Informatic influence how medical professionals deliver care to patients as well as how health care teams operate on a daily basis. From clinical operations to administration and coordination, there isn't a sector in the medical field that isn't in some way influenced or enhanced through health care informatics. By allowing health care providers and medical professionals to easily share knowledge and information, informatics enable safer and overall better patient care.

The Convenience of Informatics

From a patient standpoint, informatics in health care enable medical professionals to provide a better experience. Thanks to electronic health records (EHRs), all pertinent patient data is stored in secure, easy to access electronic systems, which in turn makes care both quicker and more comprehensive, even when a patient has multiple health providers. Rather than needing patients to remember every detail of their medical history or spend time filling out extensive paperwork, health care providers can retrieve the medical history, materials and records themselves.

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Informatics and EHRs also lead to safer care and better outcomes, as they can reduce the risk of error when it comes to prescribing medication and other sensitive tasks. With electronic records more readily available, telehealth — remote health care — becomes more accessible, since sensitive medical information can be shared virtually. Finally, by streamlining the tools, data, and methods needed to diagnose and treat patients, health care informatics make it easier for health care providers to increase their efficiency without sacrificing the quality of care.

How Informatics Help Patients Control Their Own Healthcare

Informatics in health care also help to increase patient participation. By providing patients with easy ways to access their own health records and other resources, informatics help patients to take charge of their own health. For example, consider the spike in self-tracking apps and mobile health devices in recent years. The more control and information patients have about their conditions, the easier it is for them to play an active role in their health and wellness.

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By sharing knowledge, health care informatics help to establish a more transparent, consistent collaborative medical field, both for medical staff and patients. This applies to medical staff and health care teams, as well as patients and their providers. As technology continues to advance and evolve, the impact of informatics in health care will continue to grow.