What Skills are Important in Health Informatics?

Health informatics has become an increasingly important field in the 21st century because of the way that technology is changing healthcare. This burgeoning field affects patient care in a number of ways by providing dramatic savings, sharing knowledge, including patients in their own care, increasing coordination amongst specialists and improving patient outcomes.

Students seeking a career in this increasingly important field need several skills that will help them succeed and advance in their careers. The most important are interpersonal, ability to solve problems, programming knowledge, communication and the ability to work with data systems.

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Interpersonal Skills

The ability to interact effectively with many different people is important because professionals in the health field often work in a team environment with clinical staff, information technology professionals, organizational decision-makers and even company presidents. Traits such as flexibility, empathy and conflict resolution are key.

Problem Solving Skills

Working in a multidisciplinary environment means that an informatics professional must frequently solve problems, often every day. This can take many different forms that can include sharing patient data amongst providers or improving technological processes. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) notes gathering information from various sources requires the ability to compromise and reach a consensus while working with vastly different types of individuals as the core of this skill. Developing mental flexibility to see the different sides of an argument is also part of this skill that will help students thrive in a health informatics position.

Programming Skills

Not all advanced degree programs involving informatics will include training on computer programming, so it's up to students themselves to pursue this knowledge. Students should consider coursework in programming languages like Java, C, Python, and SQL as these are commonly used in electronic health records and health databases. Individuals who enter the field without programming and coding capabilities can improve their skill set through online resources on technical languages. Such abilities are particularly helpful for positions that involve building information systems for healthcare organizations.

Communication Skills

The ability to communicate the ideas developed through problem solving, along with understanding workflow processes in healthcare, is another important facet. Clear explanation of new processes and procedures can improve the environment for healthcare workers and ultimately lead to better patient care and outcomes. Informatics professionals work with complex information and must be able to communicate this information accurately. The ability to do so is just as important as managing data. Informatics professionals must also be able to effectively disseminate this information in a way that many different types of workers will be able to understand.

No matter what area of heathcare in which an informatics professional works, that individual will work with data systems at some point. As information technology is constantly evolving, so must the informatics professionals understanding in order to advance their organization's goals and status.

The career outlook for health informatics professionals is bright for the coming decade. While obtaining a position in the field may be relatively easy, the individuals who will stand out and advance are the ones who develop these five necessary skills.

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