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Understanding Health Informatics

What is Health Informatics?

Many attempts have been made to define Health Informatics but even when a definition has been arrived at this has been open to different interpretations because as a new discipline there has not been sufficient time to for a common understanding to be reached. In any case the pace of change in technology, in information requirements, in NHS organisational change and in service modernisation has meant that Health Informatics has not remained static long enough to consolidate views.
Indeed many argue that Health Informatics is not a uniform, coherent discipline which can be summed up in a single definition. Those working in a particular sub specialism of Health Informatics are not particularly au fait with other functions to find similarities or define differences.
Therefore for the purpose of the Welsh Health Informatics Professional Development Programme a more pragmatic definition of Health Informatics has been adopted. This is a broad, inclusive umbrella definition which can be used as a guide rather than as a constraint.
“The knowledge, skills and tools which enable information to be collected, managed, used and shared to support the delivery of healthcare and promote health.”
Making Information Count
Department of Health, 2002

What Functions to the HI Staff Fulfill?

Perhaps a more useful way of describing Health Informatics is to look at the main functions performed by those working in the discipline. Work done in developing the Health Informatics functional map for the Health Informatics National Occupational Standards defines the key purpose of the Health Informatics occupational sector as to:
“Enable, promote and support the effective use of data, information, knowledge and technology to support and improve health and health care delivery.”

Last updated: 16/05/2011