Health & Science Career Advice

Medical Informatics Combines Healthcare and Technology

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Monday, August 30, 2010; 10:15 AM

When it comes to job growth in the coming years, the U.S. Department of Labor forecasts that the two fields projected to have the most jobs are technology and healthcare. In the developing area of biomedical and health informatics, you can get the best of both worlds.

According to the American Medical Informatics Association, medical informaticians apply the principles of computer and information science to the advancement of life sciences research, patient care, health professions education, and public health. Informaticians are responsible for effectively organizing, analyzing, managing, and using the complex and increasing amount of healthcare information necessary in both healthcare delivery and research.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment in medical and health informatics will increase by a faster-than-average rate of 18 percent through the year 2016. One reason for the rapid expansion of the field, reports the BLS, is the increasing number of medical tests, treatments, and procedures that need to be evaluated by health insurance companies, regulators, courts, and consumers, resulting in a growing demand for electronic record-keeping and qualified professionals to interpret and manage those records.

Medical informaticians will be able to find jobs in a variety of settings, including hospitals and other healthcare institutions; private healthcare practices; medical software companies; healthcare consulting companies; pharmaceutical companies; medical device and medical technology companies; medical libraries; public health organizations; government and non-governmental agencies and healthcare associations; insurance and other healthcare-related companies; research laboratories; and universities and colleges.

The field of medical informatics also offers variety in job titles and responsibilities, from healthcare administration and management, to clinical IT leadership, research, and education. Informatics administrators and managers, for example, might design, extract, and analyze management information from healthcare information systems, or create applications for electronic health records, while clinical IT leaders might design and implement new technologies to improve patient outcomes. Informatics researchers can develop new techniques and technologies for coordinating clinical and research data, while informatics educators will be needed to teach informatics concepts to medical students and personnel and develop education programs in biomedical informatics.

"Health care reform and advances in technology have propelled the need for trained informaticists in healthcare to new heights," says Marisa L. Wilson, DNSc., MHSc., RN-BC, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Nursing, which offers the first established master's degree in the field of nursing informatics. The 2009 federal stimulus package, for instance, targets millions of dollars of funding for informatics development and deployment. The package includes a goal of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) for every United States resident by 2014 in order to increase efficiency, decrease costs and medical errors, improve communication across providers and care settings, and to facilitate healthcare research.

"Combined with other healthcare reform efforts, these technology infusion activities have wide-scale transformational effects and have a huge impact on the informatics workforce needs," says Wilson. "Nursing informaticians, with their combined healthcare and informatics skill sets, are now in demand more than ever before."

According to Wilson, the University of Maryland School of Nursing's Division of Nursing Informatics receives daily requests from hospitals, ambulatory centers, home health corporations, national research companies, and policy organizations for its Masters and Doctoral Informatics students even before graduation. "This is a wonderful field for those who want to combine their clinical expertise with workflow redesign and computer technology in an ever-changing environment," says Wilson.

This advertorial was contributed by Carol Sorgen ( in conjunction with The Washington Post Special Section Department. The production of this supplement did not involve The Washington Post news or editorial staff.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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