Health Informatics!

It’s time to make a decision about which course to join at Karolinska Institutet. Being a current Health Informatics student and a former applicant to the programme, I understand that many current applicants are trying to find an answer to this question “What on earth is health Informatics?” I decided to write a brief non official description based on my experience and some of the questions I receive from those who are interested in the programme.

What is health informatics?

Current healthcare systems have become more and more dependent on technology and IT during the past years. We’ve witnessed (or at least some of us have) the transformation from the old paper based documentation to the revolutionary usage of computers and different computer based systems. There are many countries where the old fashioned methods of documentation are still used which causes a lot of waste of both time and energy.

Even in developed countries like Sweden, the transformation to more computer based systems has brought up new sorts of challenges and problems related to compatibility, usage and application.

That is what generally Health Informatics is all about. As I stated earlier, I’m going to take this in a very informal way. My definition of Health Informatics is simply the application of IT in the medical field.

For those who are interested in more scientific based definitions and would like to read more formal documents you can also Google Clinical Informatics and Medical Informatics to get more information.

Is Health Informatics something for me?

That’s the other big question that many (including me) asked. To answer that question, you can simply ask yourself another question. Are you interested in IT and the medical field? If your answer is yes, then Health Informatics is definitely the right thing for you.

The programme at KI targets two categories of students. Those who have an IT background and those who have a medical background. The main target is to use the already existing background and supply it with the missing piece (which could be medical or IT). The end result would be the ability to speak and understand each others’ languages. What I mean by that is that students with a technical background would understand how the medical field works and what it needs and would consequently provide optimal solutions instead of just thinking in a pure technical way.

Same thing for those who have a medical background, they would be able to communicate in a much easier way with people who have pure IT backgrounds and work together on getting the best possible outcomes for healthcare system development.

The application of such knowledge isn’t limited to developing systems to run on computers inside hospitals. It extends to medical imaging, modeling, personal assistants and even mobile apps. Whatever you can think of that uses the power and solutions provided by IT in the medical field applies.

There are many ongoing projects that already use such knowledge. For example, smart homes, robots as personal assistants and even those websites you visit seeking medical advice! Sounds too futuristic? Nah, it isn’t! Many of these things are already there and used frequently.

That leads us to the final and most important question of all “What are the career opportunities?”

I personally think it all depends on what your background is. I mean if you have a medical background, I don’t think you’re going to end up programming and if you have an IT background you’re not going to end up examining patients!

There are many jobs both in the commercial and research fields that require having people who have that kind of knowledge (IT and medicine). The thing is, these vacancies aren’t advertised as “We’re seeking a health informatitian….”. You’d better read the job description and requirements in order to see that they are seeking a person who has a background in both medicine and IT. The employers could be universities, pharmaceutical companies, IT companies, health boards, hospitals and clinics or you can even start your own business!

Some useful links for you who are interested in having further information:

  • Our group Facebook (Health Informatics at KI)…We are active there and usually answer placed questions: https://www.facebook.com/groups/healthinformaticsatki/?ref=ts&fref=ts
  • International Medical Informatics Association: http://www.imia-medinfo.org/new2/
  • Health Informatics Worldwide: http://www.hiww.org/  (Provides links to many websites in different countries all over the world)
  • Health Informatics center at KI: http://ki.se/ki/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=5323&l=en        (You’ll find useful links there too!)

I hope I covered some of the most important questions about Health Informatics. If you have more questions, feel free to contact me via email or my colleagues via Facebook and hopefully we can answer more questions or direct you to those who can.

Good luck! 🙂

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