The importance of health informatics

What is health informatics?

Health informatics concerns the use of information, and information and communication technologies to improve patient care and health.

Why is health informatics relevant to physicians and patients?

A patient’s clinical record is the cornerstone of their care. High-quality recording is essential as it provides the information needed to enable effective patient care and to communicate with others in the care team and with the patient.

Information sharing between care settings is needed to provide a patient-centred record. This is essential to enable effective integrated care. To achieve this, common standards for the structure and content of clinical records are needed to enable information to be faithfully transferred.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) that conform to standard data models enable information recorded to support patient care to be used for multiple secondary purposes (audit, research, service improvement etc), avoiding the need for separate duplicate data collections.

New technologies (such as mobile health apps, virtual consultations and remote monitoring devices) offer opportunities for improvement in the way in which care is delivered and can empower people to take a more proactive role in managing their own health and wellbeing. Not all new technologies are effective or safe and there are some key considerations to take into account when planning implementation.

To ensure that information systems meet the needs of patients and clinicians, clinical leadership of information systems design, implementation and use is vital. Patient and front-line clinician involvement in all stages of design and implementation of information systems is vital to ensure that they are fit for purpose. All physicians need to be able to use information systems safely and effectively. Attractive career pathways also need to be available to those who wish to specialise in this area.

How can physicians get involved?

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Health Informatics Unit (HIU) works in all of the above areas and we are keen to involve physicians and patients/carers who have an interest in health informatics in our work. To get involved or to find out more about our work, please email us at [email protected] .