Analysis & Informatics
What is health informatics anyway?
08 Nov 2017
If you’re reading these blog posts in preparation for an application or interview for the scheme I’d say there’s a fair chance you might not have heard of informatics. And if you haven’t heard of informatics then it’s unlikely you know what it is. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. When I was offered a place on the scheme none of my friends and family knew what informatics was, very few of the graduates from other streams had any idea and, to be honest, even I wasn’t 100% sure.
But don’t worry; I’m going to try clear things up for you!
Over my first few weeks in the scheme I met with plenty of people who have a good idea what health informatics is: heads of intelligence & information departments, previous informatics management trainees and professors and lecturers teaching health informatics at UCL. I’d love to be able to pass on a direct definition or quote from these meetings, but unfortunately everyone had a slightly different understanding of what health informatics is – so you’ll have to make do with my take.
To me it seemed like there are several areas of work that health informatics professionals were involved in:
- The design and implementation of clinical systems to ensure accurate data capture and high functionality
- Processing, categorisation and transfer of data for storage
- Processing data and linking data sets to allow more detailed analysis
- Analysis and reporting of data
- Interpreting data to provide insight into how services and patient care can be improved
In some settings informatics professionals only focused on one or two of the areas above – for example an informatics team would handle data processing and storage whilst a business information team focused on analysis. In other settings the informatics staff would handle all elements and more (IT troubleshooting and maintenance falls under informatics in some trusts). However the one common element of health informatics which everyone talked about was data.
So if I were to try and give you a quick straight forward summary it would look something like this:
“Health informatics as a discipline focuses on healthcare data and can encompass; the design and implementation of clinical systems, data collection, data storage, data manipulation and data analysis and interpretation to support service improvement.”