3 Challenges and 3 Benefits of the Current Healthcare Informatics Landscape

Doctor performing research to contribute to healthcare informaticWith increased reliance on telemedicine in the wake of COVID-19, there’s a growing need for healthcare informatics professionals who can ensure the medical industry runs efficiently and provides the highest level of care. Innovations in healthcare informatics can also ease some of the limitations of virtual treatment by allowing doctors to monitor patients remotely. 

However, with an increase in virtual services comes the potential for error, such as technical difficulties, breaches of patient privacy and inaccurate data input. The need for well-trained professionals is key to safe, accurate health informatics systems.

“Adelphi University’s MS in Healthcare Informatics program is designed to help students gain skills they can use to design, develop and implement effective, secure and interoperable telemedicine systems,” according to A. Hasan Sapci, MD, Associate Professor of Healthcare Informatics. These interventions have an array of benefits, including improved access to providers in areas experiencing staffing shortages and reduced emergency room wait times. Read on to learn some key challenges and benefits of emerging healthcare informatics technologies and methodologies for telemedicine, and how advanced study can prepare you to be a leader in the field.

Healthcare Informatics Challenges

The integration of technology into the healthcare system has helped contribute to advances in record storage, quality of patient care and cost minimization. However, along with the many benefits of technology, there are new challenges professionals must navigate because of it. Here are three of the main issues that healthcare informatics professionals may encounter:

1. Scaling for Telehealth

While telehealth has roots in providing care to patients in remote areas, the subfield still faced a trial during the pandemic. COVID-19’s mandated quarantine forced the medical field to adapt quickly: providers had to ensure care could be given in a drastically transformed landscape. Increased patient loads and technological limitations, in addition to a rapidly changing understanding of the virus and treatment for it, presented difficulties for medical professionals. Fortunately, clinicians, researchers and other healthcare and informatics professionals rose to the occasion, quickly integrating telehealth services into their practices as the need grew.

2. Maintaining Cybersecurity

Medicine and technology are rapidly evolving fields, but cybercriminals are doing their best to keep pace. The FBI’s 2022 Internet Crime Report states the agency received 800,944 complaints amounting to over $10.3 billion in losses. Of these, phishing scams were the most prevalent; in these scenarios, a criminal will send an email or other communication tricking the recipient into providing personal information or completing a malicious action, such as downloading a corrupted file. In the healthcare sector specifically, an October 2020 ransomware attack on the University of Vermont Medical Center—which cost the facility $50 million, mostly in lost revenue—reveals that cybercriminals need not gain possession of assets to cause catastrophic impact to an organization.

The sophistication and variety of internet crimes speak to the need for health informatics to keep up with security. An MS in Healthcare Informatics may not have a strong focus on cybersecurity, however, a graduate degree in healthcare informatics can equip you with the knowledge and experience to identify potential threats and the skills to make a difference in protecting patients’ personal information. Adelphi’s Master of Science in Healthcare Informatics provides students with an extensive understanding of how health information systems can anticipate security threats and, in many cases, avoid them. 

3. Adapting to AI and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence is a hot topic in many fields for the technology’s ability to mimic human-made work, but what about AI’s potential impact on healthcare? One of the foremost benefits of AI and machine learning is their ability to produce detailed diagnoses and treatment plans from complex data. For instance, a doctor can input a patient’s list of symptoms into a database, and AI can use machine learning to cross-reference the symptoms with known illnesses, then inform the doctor of potential causes, risk factors and treatments.

AI’s potential benefits for medicine are vast, which makes job candidates with training in the latest health information systems, data collection methods and analytic techniques a valuable commodity. Ultimately, the sophistication of current technology allows professionals in the field to turn challenges into opportunities for innovating new solutions. While an MS in Healthcare Informatics doesn’t make you an AI expert, a graduate degree in healthcare informatics can equip you with the knowledge and experience to identify areas for improvement and the skills to make a difference in how patients receive medical care—something that can then be put into action with the help of experienced engineers.

Benefits of Healthcare Informatics

Here are three of the benefits cutting-edge informatics can provide for healthcare:

1. Improved Healthcare Quality

At its most simple, the goal of healthcare informatics is to improve treatment. One recent innovation is the introduction of Clinical Communication and Collaboration (CC&C) platforms, which are dedicated spaces for clinicians to communicate with each other over HIPAA-compliant smartphone or desktop applications. CC&C platforms allow professionals to send confidential information, such as lab results and medication lists, safely and securely. In these dedicated spaces, a patient’s care team can collaborate effectively, even if the physicians belong to different organizations. 

At Adelphi, students receive in-depth knowledge of CC&C platforms and how to safely disseminate patient information. Faculty members like Mary Jahrsdoerfer, who worked as a chief nursing officer (CNO) in this precise industry, is the first person to have introduced the topic to hospitals. Through her expertise, she provides the necessary foundation of CC&C to students in our program. 

Another way in which healthcare informatics technology has improved patient outcomes is through patient portals and telemedicine softwares that allow for communication between providers and patients. Technology such as encrypted messaging enables providers to communicate with patients remotely, which decreases the likelihood of injury, infection and so on. This benefit was especially useful during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic because it enabled certain non-emergency situations to be diagnosed and treated without face-to-face interaction. 

2. Better Record Storage and Retrieval

Electronic health records (EHRs) are, in many ways, the frontlines of healthcare informatics because of the volume of data generated and the importance of this data in all areas of medicine. Doctors treating patients and scientists performing studies need to retrieve information quickly and feel assured that the records they receive are accurate and complete. Healthcare professionals have benefited from the integration of significant improvements in records management, such as the implementation of cloud-based systems.

Despite the sophistication of healthcare computer networks and software, they still suffer in the area of interoperability, or the ease with which different health information systems share data. Many organizations are unable to distribute and receive information quickly, which can lead to negative health outcomes for patients and higher costs to facilities. Highly trained healthcare informatics professionals can play a vital role in addressing this problem. 

 3. Reduced Costs

Multimillion-dollar ransomware attacks are far from the only way healthcare organizations lose money. Medical errors, such as adverse drug events, are not only dangerous for patients receiving medical care, but they’re also costly in a fiscal sense. The correction of medical errors in the United States costs around $140 billion per year. Preventing errors is another key benefit of health informatics; digitizing records and using algorithms to perform complex calculations helps ensure accuracy, which saves money and lives. 

The Future of Health Informatics

As technology develops, the healthcare informatics field is continually evolving to create a better patient experience. Students who earn an MS in Healthcare Informatics have the opportunity to play a major role in the implementation of these advances. 

One major development in the future of healthcare informatics is the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) into the medical field. IoT is a system of wireless, interrelated and connected digital devices that can collect, send and store data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. By allowing practitioners to predict health issues, as well as diagnose and treat patients both in-person and virtually, IoT has the potential to significantly enhance patient care. 

Wearable devices are another emerging technology that can have a positive impact for patients’ self-management of medical conditions. While commercial wearables like smartwatches and fitness trackers are common, there are many more medical-focused wearable devices that patients can use. Healthcare systems like Ochsner Health System and Kaiser Permanente are placing greater emphasis on providing wearables to patients. Wearables can allow patients to monitor their condition at home while simultaneously providing up-to-date data to practitioners about their patient’s condition. 

With increased access to an unprecedented variety and volume of medical data, precision medicine could revolutionize the medical field. Precision medicine technology creates treatment and prevention strategies that meet patient needs by considering individual variability in their environment and lifestyle.

While there are many exciting advances to look forward to in the future of healthcare informatics, issues of equity continue to exist in the healthcare industry, including informatics. For example, fitness wearables like Fitbit and Garmin can act as essential devices for patients trying to monitor their heart rate and track their exercise. However, people of color may be at risk of getting inaccurate readings. Most fitness trackers available in today’s market employ the use of photoplethysmographic (PPG) green light signaling to monitor heart rate. These green light sensors emit light that penetrates the skin layer and tracks the amount of light absorbed or reflected back to chart the rise and fall of blood volume in the arteries and estimate heart rate and energy expenditure. However, greenlight PPG sensors are more susceptible to being absorbed by melanin making it harder to get readings on darker skin tones. This is a huge issue in commercial fitness wearables and isn’t effectively addressed by the companies that sell these products. 

While there are solutions to this, including using infrared lights that power hospital-grade heart rate trackers and give much more accurate readings, big companies often take the quickest and cheapest route to get their products to the consumer. 

This is just one example of inequity that people face in health informatics. Health informatics professionals must also confront health disparities among marginalized and underresourced communities, digital literacy of aging patients and data bias in healthcare as technology continues to be integrated into medical practices. 

How an MS in Healthcare Informatics Can Help Your Career 

Whatever issue an organization wishes to remedy, healthcare informatics provides a myriad of opportunities for innovation. For those interested in advanced degrees, a curriculum with targeted coursework in health management information systems can provide the expertise needed to help organizations run more efficiently and improve patient care. 

The hands-on practice and in-depth theoretical study in Adelphi’s MS in Healthcare Informatics is vital preparation for a career at the front lines of technological development and patient services. Students learn to identify strategies that contribute to effective telemedicine program development and get hands-on practice with designing and developing modeling solutions for clinical decision-making. 

The program is designed to be a comprehensive healthcare informatics education for new and experienced healthcare professionals alike, ensuring that students graduate with the leadership, managerial, technical and analytical skills to advance their careers and help bring meaningful change in the field. 

According to labor market analytics software Lightcast, MS in Healthcare Informatics graduates have a median annual starting salary of $92,900 and some potential job opportunities include: 

  • Nurse Informaticist
  • Telehealth Nurse
  • Healthcare Informatics Specialist
  • Informatics Nurse
  • Nursing Informatics Analyst
  • Telehealth Coordinators
  • Quality Improvement Managers

About Adelphi’s Online MS in Healthcare Informatics

The online Master of Science in Healthcare Informatics from Adelphi University’s College of Nursing and Public Health prepares students for careers in implementing cutting-edge medical technologies to meet the needs of patients and healthcare professionals. This degree program is an excellent fit for healthcare administrators, practicing nurses and doctors interested in transitioning to administrative or director-level positions, health IT professionals and career changers. No matter your experience level or background, Adelphi provides multiple layers of support, especially for those who may have been out of school for a while.

Our expert faculty offer personalized instruction in convenient online courses that are informed by years of professional experience. The healthcare informatics curriculum is designed to help working professionals transform healthcare management and delivery. Hands-on exercises and a comprehensive education in health information technology will develop your proficiency in working with emerging healthcare technologies, electronic medical records and the systems that are critical to improving patient care.

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