Farrinstitute is reader-supported. We may receive commissions on purchases made through links on our site.

5 Healthcare Informatics Advancements and How They Affect the Medical Field


Informatics studies natural and artificial systems that store, process, and communicate information, to understand their structure and behaviour and improve interactions between storage and users.

The potential of integrated information is growing in various fields, but especially in medicine and healthcare. Nursing informatics in particular is an expanding practice that is improving nurses’ ability to manage information and communication technologies for the benefit of patients.

There are five subfields of healthcare informatics that are poised to become influential in 21st-century medicine:

Telehealth and Telemedicine
Cognitive Informatics
Neuroinformatics
Predictive Analytics
Clinical Decision Support Systems

What Is Healthcare Informatics?

Healthcare Informatics is the science and engineering of integrating information and communication systems into medical practice.

By nature, Healthcare Informatics is a multidisciplinary field, including not only the full spectrum of medical specialties but also a wide range of information science specialties.

#1. Telehealth and Telemedicine

What Is It?

According to the Health Resources Services Administration, telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. [1]

Telehealth is supported by online technologies such as cloud storage and sharing of diagnostic imaging and lab results, and video teleconferencing between patient and healthcare professionals. Some telehealth companies hospitals may also produce streaming video for patients to assist in self-diagnosis and home treatment.

Telemedicine is similar to telehealth, but narrower in scope. Telemedicine refers specifically to remotely-offered clinical services between doctor and patient. On the other hand, telehealth includes non-clinical services such as healthcare provider training and continued education.

Applications and Uses

Telehealth and telemedicine applications have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 epidemic, as many patients are hesitant to visit public health facilities where COVID contagion might be likely. Additionally, telehealth and telemedicine are viable options during public lockdown measures and curfews.

A recent article in Fam Med Community Health [2] discusses the advantages and disadvantages of telemedicine in a post-COVID global society.

Some of the significant advantages include cost-effectiveness and the capability to provide specialty services in varying regions. Telemedicine may also make up for doctor shortages during pandemics.

Telemedicine’s disadvantages include security issues, especially in regards to patient data. It is also difficult to perform traditional patient examinations when the patient is not physically present in a clinic.

#2. Cognitive Informatics (Artificial Intelligence)

What Is It?

Cognitive Informatics is the science of investigating human information processing mechanisms and processes. It also includes the engineering aspects of applying computing technologies to these human information processes, and vice versa.

An article in the Journal of Biomedical Informatics identifies the key topics of cognitive informatics: decision-making processes, machine and human comprehension, workflow optimization and error minimizing [3]

Applications and Uses

Some of the more exciting potential applications of Cognitive Informatics include:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Agent Technologies
  • Machine Learning
  • Web-based Information Systems
  • Neural Networks
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Bioinformatics
  • Cognitive Modeling
  • Web Design and Development
  • Learning Management Systems

#3. Neuroinformatics

What Is It?

Neuroinformatics is sometimes used synonymously with Cognitive Informatics: It’s a branch of neurobiology that focuses specifically on human information processing.

One of its main goals is to bridge an interface between the human mind and digital devices.

This technology would include mapping certain nervous system functions to aid in cerebral system diagnoses, and even uploading certain human brain experiences into digital storage.

Applications and Uses

Science fiction, like the popular Black Mirror series, has often been fascinated with the idea of creating a biological-to-digital neural interface. Many episodes of that show focus on storing human memories digitally, or directly linking the human brain into entertainment media.

This might not be science fiction for much longer. According to recent interviews, Elon Musk has created an interface, called Neuralink, that allows a monkey to control a video game. The monkey was able to do this through a wireless connection with an implanted microchip.

The Neuralink project has also been successful in creating interfaces with other animals, such as a pig named Gertrude.

#4. Predictive Analytics

What Is It?

Predictive Analytics is the field of science and engineering that hopes to determine future outcomes through complex and adaptive modeling.

By using techniques such as large-scale data mining, statistics, and modeling, predictive analytics can make predictions about future events. Data can be effectively analyzed through artificial intelligence and using machine learning techniques to arrive at accurate predictions that human analysis is too slow to reach.

Applications and Uses

A 2018 article in the International Journal of Computer Applications suggested various applications for predictive analytics [4].

Predictive models can analyze risk and anticipate opportunities in a wide variety of scientific and commercial endeavors, such as identifying credit card risk and predict stock market adjustments.

The next step in predictive analytics is prescriptive analytics, which will be not only predictive but also suggestive. These systems will be able to provide investment advice, and anticipate global health trends based on thorough models of past data.

#5. Clinical Decision Support Systems

What Is It?

Clinical Decision Support Systems are information & technology systems designed for the purpose of helping clinical healthcare providers in decision-making processes.

More and more data is being made readily available to medical practitioners, which is easing the burden on their education and diagnoses. When once upon a time, doctors were expected to keep a vast amount of knowledge memorized, now they are able to quickly and easily retrieve this knowledge.

This is especially critical during times when medical advances are rendering old knowledge obsolete. Even the changes in simple first aid care are difficult to keep up with. Clinical Decision Support Systems can be updated with current procedures and diagnostics and provide doctors with invaluable assistance during clinical care.

These systems are transforming clinical healthcare and reducing risk to patients in a wide variety of medical disciplines.

Applications and Uses

Clinical Decision Support Systems (CDSS) can be small, individual devices like personal digital assistants and applications. Alternatively, they can be facility systems, like a multihospital mainframe-based surveillance system [5].

The two main applications for CDSS are for solicited and unsolicited advice.

For example, a doctor may input symptoms and request advice from CDSS to make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment (solicited).

Alternatively, doctors may input data into the CDSS for each patient, and the CDSS could forewarn doctors of potentially harmful side effects of treatment methods before the doctor prescribes them (unsolicited).

Healthcare Informatics FAQ

What Do Healthcare Informatics Professionals Do?

Healthcare Informatics Professionals integrate their understanding of healthcare with their expertise in information and technology systems to build new efficient systems of healthcare management.

Patient care involves an enormous amount of data. This data would be unmanageable by any single doctor, and is difficult even for a large hospital staff. Healthcare informatics professionals create systems to quickly and efficiently get that data to the medical personnel who need it most urgently.

In addition to developing new systems and implementing new data processing tools, these professionals are usually involved in data analysis and inter-departmental data collaboration. They may be called upon to train and explain IT requirements to hospital staff.

What Jobs Can You Get with Health Informatics?

Healthcare Informatics Consultants and Contractors are some of the most in-demand professions in the medical field today, especially for jobs that require only a master’s degree. These consultants are typically called-upon by major hospitals to update their software and systems, and train personnel in new informatics methods and procedures.

On the nursing level, a Nursing Informatics Specialist might be hired to train nursing staff in informatics systems, find and remove redundancy and inefficiency in these nursing systems, and implement new informatics technologies in patient care.

Electronic Medical Record Keepers are one of the most critical positions for modernizing hospitals. These personnel are responsible for assigning codes to secure patient data, overseeing patient record systems and accuracy, and the controlled disbursal of private medical records to authorized patients, families, and medical care providers.

Why Is Healthcare Informatics Important?

Healthcare Informatics is on the front lines of medical care modernization, especially in regards to data management.

It is also one of the most technologically advancing fields, and new developments in healthcare informatics could truly transform the way doctors treat patients.

In a post-COVID society, healthcare informatics is the way forward in remotely helping patients, managing secure and private data, and collaborating among the global healthcare community.

Conclusion

Healthcare Informatics is a cutting edge research field and medical industry. Scientists are making tremendous advances in healthcare informatics that will soon transform healthcare as we know it.

Making clinical treatment available through remote teleconferencing is transforming clinical care during these post-COVID days. Predictive Analytics may soon surpass our own ability to predict and contain the spread of deadly diseases, and clinical decision support systems will make diagnoses and treatments easier for both doctors and nurses.

Finally, cognitive informatics and neuroinformatics might soon revolutionize the fields of prosthetics, and create true human-to-machine interfaces.

These fields are a great choice for new scientists and doctors to jump into revolutionary new techniques and discoveries. Healthcare informatics will be making headlines in all medical disciplines for the rest of the century.

References

1. “What Is Telehealth? How Is Telehealth Different from Telemedicine?” HealthIT.gov, 17 Oct. 2019, www.healthit.gov/faq/what-telehealth-how-telehealth-different-telemedicine.

2. Kichloo, Asim, et al. “Telemedicine, the Current COVID-19 Pandemic and the Future: a Narrative Review and Perspectives Moving Forward in the USA.” Family Medicine and Community Health, vol. 8, no. 3, 2020, doi:10.1136/fmch-2020-000530.

3. Patel, Vimla L., and Thomas G. Kannampallil. “Cognitive Informatics in Biomedicine and Healthcare.” Journal of Biomedical Informatics, vol. 53, 2015, pp. 3–14., doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2014.12.007.

4. Kumar, Vaibhav, and M. L. “Predictive Analytics: A Review of Trends and Techniques.” International Journal of Computer Applications, vol. 182, no. 1, 2018, pp. 31–37., doi:10.5120/ijca2018917434.

5. Miller, Randolph A., and Antoine Geissbuhler. “Clinical Diagnostic Decision Support Systems—An Overview.” Health Informatics, 1999, pp. 3–34., doi:10.1007/978-1-4757-3903-9_1.

Share this article

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get our weekly newsletter about the most recent publications and reviews in the world of medical research