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Health Information Management vs Health Informatics: What’s the Difference?

Published January 29, 2014 4:16 PM by Nicole Mohiuddin
Recently, the question of "what's the difference between HIM and Informatics" was posed to me. At first pass, I believed I could answer this succinctly and completely. However, upon thinking about this some more, I knew I needed to describe just how interrelated the two fields were. On the surface, health informatics (HI) and health information management (HIM) may seem very similar to most people. Both fields revolve around the use of technology in the healthcare field and share some common skill sets and job responsibilities, but there are many differences between these two fields.

The key factor that distinguishes HI from HIM is that HIM typically focuses on the information technology processes needed to store and retrieve patient data accurately and complying with regulations. HI, focuses on applied technology by using information management and information technology to improve patient care.

While HI and HIM complement each other, they differ on what each of these professionals do. Health informatics professionals design and develop information systems and processes that improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of care. They also assess emerging technologies for healthcare applications. HI is often described as the intersection of computer science, information science and healthcare. This means that HI professionals work with both the processes and the tools used to record, store and analyze healthcare information. They have a deep understanding of data, particularly electronic health records and how it can be used to support decisions and protocols. Health informatics professionals often interact directly with clinical staff and patients in order to evaluate the impact of information technology on clinical processes, outcomes and resources.

Health information management professionals generally work with organizing and managing patient data contained in the medical record. HIM professionals are often responsible for coding health information for proper reimbursement or research. They also ensure compliance with governmental regulations regarding patient data. They must make sure patient health records are complete and accurate. It is important for them to provide access to records to staff and others, while protecting the privacy and security of patient health information.

Required skills and knowledge often is another differentiator between the two professions. Health information management careers generally require education or experience with medical records management, coding and billing and regulatory requirements. Information technology knowledge, particularly involving electronic health records is also often required. HIM careers may also require familiarity with medical terminology, medications and basic anatomy and physiology.

Careers in healthcare informatics can benefit from some of the same core skills and knowledge needed for a HIM career. However, HI roles place less emphasis on coding, billing and regulations. There is a greater emphasis on information analysis and organization and knowledge of system infrastructure design, networking, and even programming skills. HI careers often require familiarity with clinical guidelines and applications within specialty areas such as nursing, clinical care, public health and biomedical research. Since, HI positions tend to require highly specialized knowledge and an advanced skill set, HI professionals often have a Master's of Science in Health Informatics or a Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics.

Here are some resources helpful in defining health information management and health informatics:

http://gobeyondmch.com/health-information-management-vs-health-informatics-whats-the-difference-and-why-does-it-matter/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzS--PaGC9o

posted by Nicole Mohiuddin

3 comments

Hello,

I am interested in obtaining the post-Graduate HI degree.  Can you please tell me how difficult it is to obtain an entry level position in this role.  I am applying to begin school in August 2014.

Thanks,

Mitzi

Mitzi, RN,BSN,MBA April 16, 2014 6:48 PM

Nicole

Thank you for trying to clarify the difference in roles.  Although there  are clear differences in each role, each are actually complimentary to each other.  My role recently changed for who reported to me.  I already had my informatics team but expanded with the nurse educators and the clinical documentation improvement specialist.  At first I wasn't sure how they would fit in, but honestly, We compliment each other.  I have learned so much from both CDI and their connection to the coders and can now be smarter in how I recommend builds in the EHR.  Again, we all have something to offer, it is how we make the most of each others knowledge to develop great processes and tools.  

Diane Humbrecht, Informatics - Nurse Director, Clinical Excellence and Innovation, Abington Health February 1, 2014 9:18 PM
Abington PA

Thank you Nicole for sharing your thinking around this topic. I do see it a bit differently in that what you described is health information management on a continuum from coding to the deep understanding of data that supports a number of informatics and information management activities. Are they really separate fields? It all sounds like information management to me. Is there really a difference? Or just a health information management on a continuum?

Patty Sheridan, HIM - Care Communications, Inc January 30, 2014 3:10 PM
Chicago IL

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    Occupation: Nursing informatics experts and enthusiasts
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