New Opportunities in Health Care for the Information Age

healthcare informatics

We are quick to pigeonhole individuals into the best careers for their personality: are you good at explaining things? You should be a teacher! Empathetic and a good listener? Then be a psychologist! Really good with computers and technology? Engineering is the field for you!

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Contrary to popular belief, however, the rapid movement of technology is blurring the lines between lots of fields and their respective careers, meaning you have a lot more (and more exciting) options to make your skills and personality feel at home. And all those traits listed above? Today, they could easily describe the same career path: health care.

The biggest change impacting health care today is not the Affordable Care Act, nor the aging of Baby Boomers, or even the critical shortage of nurses and physicians. It is something called “Patient-Centered Care,” and it presents a wealth of opportunities in health care fields for you to find incredibly rewarding careers.

Custom Care Through Informatics

There is already a wide variety of different specialties in Healthcare Informatics, but the essence of the discipline is actually quite simple. Instead of managing medical records hand-written on paper and storing them in enormous, disorganized filing centers, hospitals are embracing the digital revolution and going digital.

Electronic Medical Records, or EMRs, present a whole host of exciting possibilities—by giving everyone from the receptionist, to the nurse, to the physician, to the surgeon, and even the patient access to the same digital records, patient outcomes can be significantly improved.

[Learn more about health science degrees in information technology.]

Getting Involved

While hospitals could just hire tech specialists to come in and oversee the transition to EMRs, they would much prefer to have their clinical staff trained in informatics. Nurses cross-trained or specializing in informatics are also taking priority for salary increases and cost-of-living adjustments, meaning they can count on getting rewarded for their knowledge and skills. Clinical staff will continue to work more closely with IT staff as the technology advances, so it is critical to develop some fluency and familiarity with informatics now. Saving your potential employer the trouble of having to train you from square one will make you much more attractive after graduation.

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Knowledge is Power

The rising demand for a personalized patient experience is especially visible in maternity wards. Women and families are seeking an opportunity to have access to more information, so they can make more of the decisions in their delivery. To this end, they are increasingly enlisting the aid of nursing midwifes to receive more attentive care, to avoid unnecessary cesareans, and better ensure the safety and success of their deliveries. This new emphasis on patient decision-making and engagement is raising demand for (and the value of) these nursing specializations.

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Reading the Label

Informatics and EMRs also bring patients closer to their pharmacies, with apps and programs that allow them to track dosage, monitor side effects, and even remotely request refills through their mobile devices. Between an aging population, the explosion of different medications, and the hazards of potential side effects, it is easy for patients to get overwhelmed and intimidated when it comes to mediation therapy. But new platforms for managing the entire process are helping demystify the world of pharmaceuticals.

Better communication and engagement with their medication therapists can mean millions of adverse reactions and unnecessary scripts can be avoided entirely, saving money for patients and hospitals. It is a field in high demand among patients and hospitals alike.

Law of the Land

While many hospitals and smaller clinics have been updating and implementing their EMR systems voluntarily, new federal incentive programs have been developed to further drive the switch. This means healthcare providers must work more closely than ever with their IT departments, and better instruct their patients on new information platforms, in order to receive Medicaid and Medicare payments.

With the federal government officially endorsing the move to digital, it is safe to say that an investment in informatics education now will continue to pay for years to come.

A Brave New World

Even as more hospitals jump on board with the move toward patient-centered care and away from disease-centered treatment, the field of informatics is still in its infancy. The resulting premium on cross-trained and specialized healthcare workers provides a great way to take advantage of your own interests and skills, while making yourself more competitive and valuable to employers at the same time.

health care study in the information ageEdgar Wilson grew up in Oregon before moving to the East Coast for college. He studied International Relations and Conflict Resolution at Amherst College, which has led him through various fields ranging from local politics to international marketing to broadcast journalism. He is currently back West working as a marketing consultant and freelance writer.

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