Health Informatics vs. Health Information Management: Key Differences and Similarities
What is the difference between health information management and health informatics?
The answer to this question is actually evolving as new technology continues to change both the way health care is delivered and the methods used to ensure that vital health records are accurate, secure and accessible to both patients and clinical caregivers.
The ongoing changes affecting the closely related disciplines of health informatics (HI) and health information management (HIM) are especially important for practitioners in both fields, as they affect current and future job roles, responsibilities and career prospects.
HIM and Health Informatics [Traditional Definitions]
Health information management is the practice of acquiring, analyzing and protecting digital and traditional medical information vital to providing quality patient care. It is a combination of business, science and information technology, according to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Working to accurately and securely manage patients’ medical data, HIM professionals work in a diverse set of roles that affect the quality of patient information and patient care at every touch point in the health care delivery cycle.
Steve Wretling, chief technology and innovation officer for the Health Care Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), explains that HIM professionals are responsible for ensuring that “the right information is available when and where it’s needed, while at the same time making sure it’s the highest quality data, it’s confidential and it’s secure.”
Health informatics is focused on “the science of how to use data, information and knowledge to improve human health and the delivery of health care services,” according to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA). As the digital age results in the collection and availability of far more health-related data than ever before, health informatics professionals apply “principles of computer and information science to the advancement of life sciences research, health professions education, public health and patient care.”
|Health Information Management||Health Informatics|
|Key Focus of Responsibility||
Emphasizes tasks related to terminology, coding, transcription and overall records management related to the business of health care.
|Common Job Titles||
Key Differences between Health Information Management and Health Informatics
Though there are many similarities between the fields of HIM and health informatics, there are also significant differences. Both disciplines relate to health information technology and electronic health records (EHRs), but one key difference is this:
- Health information management professionals are specifically focused on the management and governance of such records.
- Health informatics professionals are more focused on the science of optimizing the value offered by EHRs and other medical data.
Health Information Management focuses on the management of personal health information within health care organizations, including billing, coding, data governance/security, record keeping, regulatory compliance and patient privacy; connected to the delivery of services to the public.
Health Informatics focuses on using current and emerging information technology systems to leverage the data processed through health information management to create knowledge that can be used to boost efficiency, reduce costs and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
How Health Informatics is Creating New Opportunities for Health Information Management Professionals
For health information management professionals, many of whom perform records management job duties connected to billing and coding, the field of health informatics holds great potential for advancing their career in roles that require a higher level of analysis and technical skill.
This is an exciting prospect for many working in health information management because the HIM field traditionally has been one that could feel somewhat limiting in terms of possibilities for moving up the career ladder.
While the medical world’s ever-greater ability to collect and analyze data, and use it to improve human health, is common to both the health information management and health informatics professions — the expanding impact of digital technology in modern medicine has created significant demand for professionals equipped with advanced education in informatics.
For those who aspire to position themselves for success in the evolving HI vs. HIM employment landscape, the need to develop new skill sets is paramount.
This point is also strongly emphasized by the American Health Information Management Association. In fact, in a report titled HIM Reimagined, AHIMA has developed a 10-year “blueprint for transforming the HIM profession.”
Educational Opportunities for Transitioning from HIM to Health Informatics
One of the core initiatives emerging from the AHIMA report focuses on advanced education. “Gaining the skills to fill future roles takes education and a commitment to lifelong learning,” as well as expanded opportunities “to earn graduate degrees in HIM and health informatics,” AHIMA explains in its HIM Reimagined video.
AHIMA is so committed to helping HIM professionals grow into health informatics roles that it is now offering scholarships to assist its members who are seeking to expand their skills by advancing their education.
A master’s degree in health informatics typically focuses on developing a high-level understanding of the intersection between health care and information technology with curriculum that integrates health care and IT, health system leadership and business knowledge/skills.
As the science of informatics continues to revolutionize health care, graduate degree programs such as the University of San Diego’s M.S. in Health Care Informatics have embraced the mission of helping to train current and future generations of health information management and health informatics professionals.