The healthcare industry has become increasingly data-driven. Hospitals, clinicians, and insurance companies use data to provide evidence-based, cost-effective medical care. The need for experts who can analyze health data to improve patient care is a pressing one. Professionals who are interested in driving change in healthcare may be attracted to the field of health informatics or nursing informatics.
St. Catherine University’s online Master of Health Informatics and Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Informatics programs help prepare healthcare professionals to become leaders in these exciting fields.
What Is Informatics in Healthcare?
Informatics analyzes data to understand a specific problem or issue within a company, department, or other organization. It uses that analysis to support operational changes to drive efficiencies, improve performance, boost production, or other desired outcomes.
In the healthcare industry, health experts use informatics to support evidence-based changes that improve patient outcomes, help prevent medical errors, boost overall community health, reduce the cost of care, and improve the accuracy of medical diagnoses, among other purposes.
For example, a hospital executive may ask data analysts to compile and analyze data on hospital-acquired infections. The informatics analyst would then consult with the clinical and administrative team to advise on training, staffing, and other changes that would reduce infections and improve patient outcomes.
How do professionals in health informatics vs. nursing informatics use these technologies to drive operational changes that improve the quality of healthcare? A look at the relative graduate degrees helps illustrate the difference.
Master of Health Informatics (MHI)
Health informatics uses data compiled from a vast array of sources to drive decision-making and improve patient care. Patient demographics, electronic health records, community health information, diagnoses, and other relevant data can all be used as input. However, data is only part of the story. Healthcare knowledge of processes and procedures is also an essential part of health informatics. St. Kate’s Master of Health Informatics program provides graduates with a strong foundation for careers in this area.
St. Kate’s MHI curriculum provides an extensive foundation in health informatics. Students learn how to analyze health problems and come up with innovative solutions. They also gain an understanding of ethical leadership in healthcare and prepare to apply data-backed solutions at local, national, and global levels. The curriculum includes the following topics:
- Clinical: Exploring informatics and the delivery of healthcare, with a focus on privacy and data security
- Consumer health: Understanding the impact of consumer education and patient literacy on individual health
- Population health: Managing population-wide datasets that include public and clinical data to develop public health programs
- Project management: Designing and executing projects that meet the complex demands of healthcare organizations
- People management: Developing managerial skills and strategies for a diverse workforce
Careers and Salary
The median annual salary for a professional with a Master of Health Informatics degree was approximately $72,000 as of January 2022, according to PayScale. Potential careers for Master of Health Informatics graduates also include data analyst and clinical informatics specialist.
- Health informatics specialist: These specialists help implement and maintain healthcare software applications. They help identify informatics needs and improve processes. According to PayScale, their median annual salary was around $64,000 as of December 2021.
- Healthcare data analyst: A data analyst identifies, compiles, cleanses, and models healthcare data in response to queries. Data analysts must understand what healthcare data is pertinent to a query. According to PayScale, their median annual salary was around $65,000 as of January 2022.
- Clinical informatics specialist: Clinical informatics specialists work directly with patient medical records. They create improvement plans to protect patient privacy, improve patient care, and improve organizational processes. PayScale reported that their median annual salary was around $78,000 as of February 2022.
Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Informatics (MSN: NI)
Both nursing informatics and health informatics use all sources of healthcare data to develop evidence-based solutions to healthcare challenges. However, nursing informatics looks at nursing science and uses the knowledge, experience, and background that are specific to the nursing profession to identify patient-centered issues.
Examples of nursing informatics solutions include identifying more efficient workflows to eliminate medical errors or to improve patient outcomes. Nursing informatics professionals also contribute to research in the field of nursing.
St. Kate’s Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Informatics is open to registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing who want to play a role in improving patient care by combining their real-world nursing experience and cutting-edge data science.
This program includes coursework in advanced practice nursing and biostatistics. It also covers nursing informatics, including population health, evidence-based practice, and nursing data and wisdom. The program’s goal is to teach skills in the following areas:
- Clinical nursing practice: Understanding and applying information technology to clinical practice
- Patient-centered nursing: Leveraging informatics to understand how to provide patient-centered care that can positively influence population health
- Leadership: Learning how nursing informatics can lead to a leadership role in nursing
- Project management: Applying project management principles to research and problem-solving
Careers and Salary
An MSN: NI degree can lead to a number of different careers, including clinical informatics analyst, nursing informatics specialists, and healthcare or business data analyst. While the roles are similar, they each have a different scope.
- Nursing informatics specialist: These specialists work with doctors and nurses to identify evidence-based solutions to medical care issues. They also consult with the IT department on selecting healthcare software. Their median annual salary was approximately $84,000 as of January 2022, according to PayScale
- Informatics nurse: Informatics nurses optimize the use of electronic medical records and other patient care software technology. They work with the IT department to implement technology, train medical staff, and provide ongoing systems support. According to PayScale, their median annual salary was around $80,000 as of February 2022.
- Nursing informatics analyst: Nursing informatics analysts research and analyze data to identify issues and develop solutions. Their work supports decision-making by hospital administrators and clinicians to improve care. Their median annual salary was around $79,700 as of February 2022, according to PayScale.
MHI vs. MSN: NI Differences and Similarities
MHI and MSN: NI programs have many similarities. They each teach students to use the vast ocean of healthcare and ancillary data to clarify problems and model solutions. Nursing and healthcare professionals bring their knowledge and insight, as well as their data analysis skills, to apply what they’ve learned to real-world situations.
However, there are also fundamental differences.
Healthcare informatics integrates health IT into a hospital or other healthcare setting. This means incorporating electronic health records, healthcare data dashboards, and healthcare administrative applications into a healthcare provider’s infrastructure. Healthcare informatics professionals then use the data gathered in these applications to develop workflows and identify projects that improve operations and patient care.
Nursing informatics is aimed at nurses and requires a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It supports patient-centered care and evidence-based care nursing models. Since nursing is by definition patient-focused, the goal of nursing informatics is to improve patient care delivery and outcomes by using electronic health records and other technology.
Health Informatics vs. Nursing Informatics: Which Is Right for You?
Are you an RN with a desire to develop patient-centered care models based on evidence-based research? Then an MSN: NI program may be appealing. If you’re interested in how healthcare data can make healthcare more efficient and effective, or you already have a technology background, then an MHI program could be the right fit. When you’re ready to take the next step in your career, explore St. Catherine University’s online master’s programs to find the degree that’s right for you.