October 8, 2020  |  Zeynep Behjet, MD, MHI, MEd

A global focus on quality care spurred the health care industry's rapid evolution and greater reliance on technological advancements. The accelerated growth in technology generated a massive amount of data that needs to be stored, managed, and analyzed. The security and the meaningful use of the data assets are regulated heavily by government and quasi-government agencies. Amid all these changes, two career paths emerged to ensure leveraging the big data strategically: health informatics (HI) and health information management (HIM).

If you are someone who enjoys working with technology and data, you will be attracted to one of the two career paths. However, while HI and HIM may overlap in some areas such as training, use of technology, and data in the health care field, they are two distinct disciplines. Each profession has specific responsibilities and work settings. Knowing the difference between the two careers will help you choose the right path for you.

What Is Health Informatics?

Health informatics is where technology, science, and health care meet. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) defines health informatics as “the science of how to use data, information, and knowledge to improve human health and the delivery of health care services.” Informatics drives the most used information systems in health care, such as electronic health records.

Informatics professionals work to innovate and create new ways of using the information to improve care quality at a lower cost. Some job responsibilities include:

  • Designing and developing health information systems
  • Evaluating the safety and efficiency of existing information systems
  • Evaluating and analyzing the effect of information technology on clinical outcomes
  • Forecasting and designing emerging technologies
  • Ensuring all the regulatory requirements are met
  • Researching bioinformatics, image informatics (e.g., neuroinformatics), clinical informatics, public health informatics, and translational bioinformatics (TBI)

Which Is the Right Degree for a Career in Health Informatics?

Most health informatics careers require advanced knowledge and skills and a minimum of a master’s degree in health informatics. HI professionals have jobs in areas such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Medical groups and clinics
  • Health insurance organizations
  • Research facilities
  • Policy organizations
  • Medical research laboratories
  • Data analytics companies
  • Hardware and software vendors
  • Health information technology suppliers
  • Consulting organizations

What Is Health Information Management?

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) defines health information management (HIM) as “the practice of acquiring, analyzing, and protecting digital and traditional medical information vital to providing quality patient care.” It is an interdisciplinary field that combines business, science, and information technology.

HIM professionals are mainly responsible for the accumulation, storage, and accuracy of patient data. An HIM professional is also responsible for managing medical records processes related to billing, patient privacy, data governance, and regulatory compliance. Some of the job responsibilities include:

  • Enhancing data quality contained in the medical record
  • Coding health information for reimbursement and research
  • Processing health data for billing and reporting purposes
  • Ensuring patient and organizational data meets regulatory compliance
  • Complying with all relevant standards regarding health information
  • Protecting the privacy and security of patient health information

Which Degree Will I Need for a Career in Health Information Management?

Careers in health information management require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in health information management. A master’s degree in health information management is preferred for higher-level jobs. HIM professionals have jobs in many areas of health care, including:

  • Insurance companies
  • Hospitals
  • Home health care agencies
  • Medical groups and clinics
  • Long-term care units
  • Research facilities
  • Policy organizations

Health Informatics vs. Health Information Management: Which Is Right for You?

If you enjoy working directly with patient data and seeing its impact on the quality of care, then a career in health information management may be the right path for you. If you like to be behind the scenes developing new tools to improve the quality of care, then a career in health informatics may be more suitable for you.

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Filed in: Health Sciences


About the Author

Zeynep Behjet, MD, MHI, MEd

Zeynep Behjet is a faculty member in the School of Health Sciences at Purdue University Global. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of Purdue Global.

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