Want to make a difference? Save lives? You can do both in Health Informatics, an exciting field at the beating heart of 21st century health care. During the last winter Olympics, the world's top athletes – the injured ones at least! - got on-the-spot, topnotch medical attention thanks to two mobile hospitals and a network that connected remote mountain locations to medical specialists in faraway places. Tech linked distant experts like neurosurgeons to on-site doctors.
Cool Jobs in Health IT
- Chief Information Officer. With a bird's eye view of a hospital's entire tech operation, the CIO works with teams of talented people across the organization to make sure medica staff have the best technologies to help patients get better. The CIO's job is to understand the challenges that doctors, researchers and nursing staff face and then use out-of-the-box thinking to come up with innovative solutions. Children hate having their blood taken and nurses don't want to do so unnecessarily. Solution? A digital database that makes a patient's blood results available across departments. Medical staff can see what earlier blood samples already reveal about a child's condition. No excess needle pricks and everyone's happier!
- Health Information Management (HIM) Specialists use their IT knowledge to oversee the vast amounts of data that pour out of a typical hospital. These find the best technology to turn this information into insights that can help doctors provide better care. As “multilingual” experts they bridge the vocabularies of techies, medical people, and hospital administrators.
- Systems Analyst. If the next time you find yourself in the hospital and the doctor is wielding a cool tablet computer, there is probably a Systems Analyst behind it! Finding fun and practical uses for state-of-the art technologies is part of the air Systems Analysts breathe. And making sure that these technologies run without a hitch makes the job crucial whether at a hospital, clinic, drug manufacturer or research institution.
Think of online organ donation registries, keeping a person's medical history in a single location accessible to doctors anywhere. Or a digital pen that enables a doctor to fill out your chart and transmit the info directly to a computer. How about a smartphone app that allows doctors to instantly consult cutting-edge encyclopedias of diseases, diagnosis and treatment? All of these innovations come out of one of today's most dynamic sectors, Health informatics.
Health informatics brings together the latest information technologies with healthcare and business. It is a way to make valuable contributions to health without being a doctor or nurse. Health informatics uses information and communications technologies to deliver better patient care and at a lower cost than before. Patients receive more appropriate care through an more accurate, timely, and readily available information such as personal health records, lab and X-ray results, and medication records. Graduates of health informatics and health information management programs work in hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical corporations, insurance agencies, medical software companies, research labs, public health institutions, governments and in universities and colleges.
Why is IT huge in health?
Safe, timely patient care depends on accurate information. The wrong pill given to a person with a particular allergy could make someone very ill or worse. Doctors need to know the health history of patients, the sort of medications they are on and any other special considerations. In emergency situation, they need this info right away. Electronic medical records (EMR) keep track of crucial treatment information and make it available right at their fingertips. IT has also become huge in the sector because it saves so much time in the collection, storage and retrieval of information. And, of course, time is money!
Connected Health. This term refers to the use of technology to deliver care remotely. Considered the way of the future, connected health has to potential to increase patient convenience, enable access to healthcare professionals even if you are far from an urban centre, and cut costs dramatically.
Connected health propels the growing development of Consumer Health Electronics. New technological gadgets enable the collection and analysis of health-related information in everyday settings like the home or office via mobile phones and computers. Devices on the horizon include a smart shirt with built-in sensors to capture all sorts of information such as heart rate, breathing and other health indicators. Environmental sensors will be able monitor the health of all the people in a home using motion detectors and cameras. The collection and analysis of information may even be able to predict and head off accidents like falling down the stairs. As Canada’s population ages, such devices will become more important.
As doctors and institutions move to electronic health records, the demand for skills in health IT has exploded. In fact, there is a shortage of these experts – jobs are easy to find, and pay well! In Canada, 33,000 people worked in health informatics in 2010, and an additional 6-12,000 will be needed by 2014. The most in-demand skills involve standards, quality assurance and decision-making support (tools and information to help doctors and nurses make good medical decisions).
Other Health IT jobs
- Clinical informatics e-care. This job brings the electronic health record system into a hospital. It involves working with doctors and clinicians to ensure that the e-care system follows standard approaches (so that your record can be seen from anywhere) and best practices (learning from others to do things in the best possible way), and provides needed information at the moment a health decision must be made.
- Health data information Security officers protect electronic medical records from being violated by prying eyes or as a result of human error. These in-demand cyber-guardians are the keepers of government privacy rules.
- Knowledge management analysts collect, organize and share research from teaching hospitals and institutions.
- Clinical information systems coordinators teach healthcare professionals how to work with and protect patient information. They also keep information moving throughout the organization.
How technology is changing health care and medical research - ideas and topics for the Youth Tech Jam