Health Information Management vs. Health Informatics

Healthcare and technology are two essential parts of our society today. They are also connected in many different ways. For example, the entire healthcare system depends upon technology to keep patient records, share information, communicate, access data and provide security and safety to its information networks.

With technology playing such a large role, it’s important that there are people within the healthcare field who understand how to use and apply a variety of healthcare technologies. Health information management (HIM) and health informatics (HI) are two careers that combine healthcare and technology.

While HIM and HI sound like similar positions, how different could they be? The short answer is they are very different. Keep reading to learn the differences in these two critical fields.

What is HIM?

As mentioned above, patient records are now primarily filed electronically. Health information technicians create a patient record using specific software. When a doctor meets with a patient they write down notes about the appointment and ailment, such as diagnosis or treatment. Those notes are sent to the technician, who translates the notes into a code. That code is then input into the software system and it becomes an ingrained part of a patient’s record.

So what does that have to do with a health information managers? In general, they are the manager of the health information department of a facility. That means they must have all of the technical knowledge needed to not only perform the job of a health information technician, but also to oversee all of the software systems that are used.

HIM Responsibilities

  • Manage staff
  • Manage health information software
  • Troubleshoot minor technical issues
  • Address internal and external conflict
  • Ensure federal compliance
  • Maintain ethical practice

What is Health Informatics?

In order to be able to input patient data, a technician needs access to a health information software system. But who creates these software systems? Health informatics professionals, for one.

They have an in-depth knowledge of computer technology and can use it to design and implement various programs for the healthcare field. Along with their IT skills, they are trained in medical coding and terminology. Without being trained in basic aspects of health information, it would be difficult to create software that is focused on making record keeping so secure and efficient.

HI Responsibilities

  • Analyze data
  • Design and create healthcare software systems
  • Communicate through all facility levels, from patients to directors
  • Apply IT skills to technical issues
  • Modify software as needed

How are Health Information Management and Health Informatics Different

After reading what HIM and HI are in brief, you’ve seen a few of their differences. Let’s compare exactly what those differences are to give you a better understanding:

Health Information Management

  • Related to medical records
  • Manages people
  • Creates and monitors medical records
  • Protects and secures data

Health Informatics

  • Related to applied IT
  • Manages software programs
  • Designs and creates healthcare software
  • Analyzes data

Is HIM or HI a Better Profession?

There is no clear-cut way of determining whether an HIM or HI career is better. Although some of the basic required knowledge overlaps between the positions—that is, medical coding and terminology—they are extremely different career paths and which is better for you depends upon your skills and interests.

Also, both positions are relatively new to the industry. As healthcare facilities transition from paper filing to electronic filing, there is a growing need for both HIMs and HIs to create and manage these electronic systems and the data that is created. This need promotes growth in both fields.

If you have a passion for the healthcare system and enjoy developing software, becoming a health informatics professional could be the better profession for you. A health information management career, on the other hand, might be better if you have a desire to work in the healthcare system as a manager and an expert in patient records.

The good news is that it is possible to transition from being a information management into informatics, and vice versa. Although the transition will take some extra training, such as software development or management courses, you can expect many of your skills to transfer. If you work in another area of healthcare, you may also find that your skills will apply and all the experience you gain while working in another healthcare field may give you the advantage of being a diverse and experienced applicant.

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