Health informatics is one of the fastest-growing segments in two distinct industries: healthcare and information technology (IT). As this is a relatively new field, there is currently a shortage of professionals who have the experience and expertise to step into many health informatics roles. Luckily for aspiring professionals, this means that most health informatics careers come with a competitive salary and significant job security.
Below, we take a closer look at what health informatics is, explore some of the top job titles held by those in the field, and outline the steps to breaking into the industry.
What is health informatics?
Health informatics (HI) is a discipline that straddles the information technology and healthcare industries. It is considered a subfield of information technology focused primarily on the collection, digitization, storage, retrieval, and sharing of patient records across systems, networks, and devices.
Health informatics has gained significant attention in recent years due to three main trends:
- The increased adoption of healthcare technology and electronic health records (EHRs) among healthcare providers
- The advent and advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT), which allows smart devices to collect and transmit data
- The evolution of telemedicine, which enables doctors and other healthcare workers to treat patients remotely
These developments have proven beneficial, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that prevented many in-person health visits. However, they also introduced many questions about the security and privacy of health data. As a result, these trends have increased the demand for a variety of health informatics jobs.
Health Informatics Careers
Below is a look at some of the most common job titles in the health informatics industry, including their responsibilities, relationship to others on the informatics team, and salary information, where available.
1. Health Informatics Specialist
Average annual salary: $67,534 per year
A health informatics specialist works with patient records and data in a healthcare setting. They are often employed by healthcare providers such as hospitals and clinics, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, commercial insurance companies, and governmental or other policy-focused institutions.
Because the term is something of a catch-all, it can mean different things to different employers. Health informatics specialists can work in analytical, project management, consulting, or support capacities depending on an organization’s needs. This title is often held by individuals early in their career before moving into more specialized roles.
2. Clinical Informatics Analyst
Average annual salary: $89,351 per year
Clinical informatics analysts compile and analyze health data and then use that analysis to adjust their organization’s practices, processes, and workflows to improve patient outcomes. For example, a hospital that has seen an increase in post-op readmission rates might turn to a clinical informatics analyst to identify methods for reducing that rate, which might be as simple as educating patients on proper wound care to reduce infections.
“The hottest health informatics jobs right now are related to analytics,” says Jay Spitulnik, associate teaching professor and director of Northeastern’s MS in Health Informatics. “The main reason for that is because of the growth in electronic health record (EHR) utilization over the past few years. Because of that, there are billions and billions of pieces of data that are available now. And now that we have it, we have to ask, ‘What can we do with it to help improve patient outcomes?’”
3. Health Informatics Consultant
Average annual salary: $103,399 per year
Health informatics consultants are professionals employed by healthcare organizations, often on a contract or project basis. Their job is to advise the organization on all informatics-related questions, challenges, and initiatives. Health informatics consultants are often employed by organizations that are in the process of a digital transformation or that do not have an internal informatics team. Their role varies greatly, depending on the needs of their clients.
4. EHR Implementation Manager
Average annual salary: $104,823 per year
An EHR implementation manager or EMR implementation manager is a professional with deep expertise in designing, implementing, and optimizing software that handles electronic health records (which are also called electronic medical records). Duties can include developing custom templates, making recommendations for software enhancements, and training others to use the software, among other responsibilities.
5. Health Information Technology Project Manager
Average annual salary: $106,914 per year
Health information technology project managers (known as a Health IT PM) are project managers who focus specifically on projects related to health informatics. They are responsible for performing all of the primary duties of a project manager, including initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing the project. The work can be incredibly varied, and the projects often focus on implementing new technology or optimizing workflows.
6. Chief Medical Information Officer
Average annual salary: $137,584 per year
The chief medical information officer is an executive responsible for overseeing all of an organization’s initiatives related to health informatics and patient records. While they can be involved in specific projects, such as software launches and new process development, they also draft and implement strategic plans related to the long-term IT infrastructure of the organization.
Breaking Into Health Informatics
Professionals working in the field of health informatics are regularly rewarded with competitive salaries. Even entry-level positions such as a health informatics specialist receive a much higher salary than the national average.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in health informatics, note that Spitulnik says most of the roles listed above require advanced education.
With this in mind, there are several different degrees that can prepare you to work in an informatics role. First, there is the industry-agnostic Master of Science in Informatics degree. Others may earn a Master of Science in Information Systems and work in a general IT-focused role for some time before transitioning into the healthcare space. Another excellent route for those who are sure they want to work in health informatics is to pursue a closely aligned degree, such as a Master of Science in Health Informatics.
Spitulnik notes that, when selecting a degree, it’s critical to evaluate programs by the technical skills they provide and the “soft” skills you will have the chance to refine.
“Health informatics professionals work with people who speak entirely different professional languages,” Spitulnik says. “[Northeastern] prepares our students to be the interpreters among all those disparate groups. The clinician speaks a different language from the IT professional, who speaks a different language from the management professional, and from the patients. And so, our graduates learn to communicate effectively with all of those stakeholders, to ensure that the end result of an effort is ultimately going to be fruitful for all parties.”