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6 Types of Health Informatics

December 1, 2022

The health care industry generates an estimated 30% of the world’s data. Health informatics is a health care field that captures this data using technology, in ways that improve the patient experience. It focuses on how data is collected, protected and used across a health care environment. Separate from patient care, health informatics is its own discipline — centered around data and the best tools to analyze it.

Let’s look at some of them now. If you work in this field, for example, you might spend time mining data, managing databases or collecting public health information. Health informatics is a wide field with a variety of different sub-disciplines, such as nursing or public health. 

Clinical Informatics

Health organizations often collect information from individual patients. This sub-discipline, clinical informatics, focuses on data collection and analysis for individual patients in a health care setting. Unlike other sub-disciplines, it typically does not include data from entire populations. Instead, it is a field hyper-focused on how personal data is processed, cleansed and communicated to patients and their families.

Clinical informatics has a strong impact on public health care and it dictates how information stored in patient electronic health records (EHRs) should be used. If you work in this specialty, you might also play a role in exchanging patient information between different health care organizations. This process, known as the health information exchange (HIE), promotes continuity of care for patients receiving care from multiple providers.


This sub-discipline focuses on storing and analyzing biological data. You might work with DNA, amino acid sequencing or genetic codes in bioinformatics — all fields that source data from the human body. Often called computational biology, bioinformatics combines modern technology with biological information. It relies on algorithms and data processing tools to translate data from the body in ways that improve the patient experience.

Personalized medicine is just one exciting result of ongoing bioinformatics research. This process uses a patient’s individual genetic profile to treat disease. Providers consider your protein structure, genetic variations and other factors to inform health care decisions. These important genetic markers help confirm treatment type, dosage and frequency.

Public Health Informatics

Public health informatics is the intersection of data and public health data. Unlike clinical sub-disciplines, public health informatics typically deals with larger populations. It involves monitoring critical health data to prevent disease, assess overall well-being and promote overall health best practices across a community.

If you work in this field, you’ll often spend time using technology to highlight trends among large volumes of data. You’ll find specific risk factors or outbreaks that might require intervention. Collecting data from entire community populations can also take time. You’ll use resources like census data, surveys and verbal autopsies to find the information you need.

Education is a major component to many community health programs — and it relies on public health informatics. Some professionals in this specialty strictly work behind the scenes, collecting data for interpretation. But others might have a public-facing role, answering questions or addressing risk factors and how to prevent them.

Pharmacy Informatics

Pharmacy informatics focuses on the use of information technology in medication, and can be used in a variety of settings, including a physician’s office, pharmacy or research laboratory. No matter where you work, the focus is the same: to acquire, store, analyze and use medicinal data to improve patient lives.

Among other responsibilities, many pharmacist informaticists handle bar code medication administration (BCMA). This means using technology to confirm that the right patient receives the right medication dosage at the right time. You’ll also update a patient’s electronic Medication Administration Record (eMAR), which feeds medication data into their EHR.

Consumer Health Informatics

Consumer health informatics is a unique field that involves people in their own medical decisions. It provides patients with information about their own health, enabling greater accountability for their own well-being. No matter their condition, consumer health informatics empowers patients to positively impact their own outcomes.

Many stages of data used in this field are similar to other sub-disciplines. For example, consumer health informaticists will still use technology to collect, securely store and analyze information from patients. They might even update patient EHRs and provide data to practitioners. However, their real responsibility is in packaging health information in ways that patients will understand.

More than other health care specialties, consumer health informatics involves patients in their own treatment process. Providers can use patient information to teach patients more about their own risk factors, and present challenges and opportunities for future improvement. Patients then feel capable of embracing treatment and making lifestyle changes that improve their conditions.

Nursing Informatics

Nursing informatics combines modern technology with the disciplines and theory-guided practices of nursing, commonly called nursing science. Between patient assessments, vital sign monitoring, documentation and compliance, many nurses already feel overworked. Nursing informatics can help alleviate some of that burden, by using computers and other technology to handle daily data-related tasks. 

Conducting data analysis in this way improves a nurse’s daily efficiency, by using technology that can collect, store and analyze information at an accelerated rate. This can make a difference in the quality of patient care. For example, nursing informatics can inform clinical decision support (CDS) — platforms that automatically prompt nurse actions based on patient data. 

Choosing Your Type of Health Care Informatics

You’ll need skills in computing, analytics and interpersonal communication to find a career in health care informatics. These skills form the foundation for success in health care role, where you might spend time interacting with providers and technology on a daily basis.

Some skills you might need for these careers include data collection and analysis, as well as data algorithm integration. You may also need to know how to train health care staff in proper data collection and compliance. In addition, you’ll benefit from developing soft skills like problem-solving, analytical thinking and organization.

Many aspiring health care professionals begin their career journeys with a health informatics certification program. These programs provide accelerated curriculums that teach the skills modern health employers need. They can help you find an entry-level role or advance your career toward a senior-level position.

If you’re looking to take the next steps in a patient care career, you might also need to complete more education. Many employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree in health informatics when hiring a director. These degree programs typically require at least a bachelor’s degree and a 3.00 GPA, in order to apply. Many students also consider financial aid packages when pursuing education in health informatics, which helps make their next career step even more affordable.