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How to get into health informatics as a graduate

Health informatics: graduate area of work

Manage and develop the data and IT systems that are used by healthcare providers and hospitals. Sam Harper from TPP explains more about graduate careers in health informatics.

Constraints on money and regulation in hospitals and clinics mean that the healthcare industry is always looking to work more efficiently.

Health informatics is all about improving patient outcomes through the use of technology – it’s making sure that people receive the best possible care, whether that’s getting the right medication or ensuring appointments happen as scheduled. The sector is fast-paced and constantly striving for improvement as innovations in healthcare can quickly have a large impact on those in need.

The main objective in the sector is always improving patient care and outcomes, although how this will happen will depend on the company you work for. Types of employers operating in this sector include tech, pharmaceutical, research, insurance and private healthcare organisations, as well as the NHS. In the health informatics sector, you could be facilitating the sharing of data across the NHS or putting healthcare right into the hands of patients by allowing them to access to their own records.

There’s also a significant ecosystem of specialised suppliers that integrate with larger applications and organisations, so, for example, a company that just provides medical scanners will slot into the wider industry through other organisations. Major players in the sector include TPP, Cerner, EPIC, EMIS and Babylon.

Key areas of work in this sector include: business analysis, invoicing, stock control management, appointment booking and patient record management, to name a few.

Graduates wanting to work in health informatics need to know…

There are a number of challenges that affect the sector. Constraints on money and regulation in hospitals and clinics mean that the healthcare industry is always looking to work more efficiently; as such, it’s helpful to be aware of the government’s objectives regarding healthcare so that you can anticipate potential policy decisions.

The need to develop apps and more patient-centric technology has increased: it’s no longer just as simple as backend, frontend or database management. Historically, health informatics has referred to desktop applications, but now people have access to their records on their phones or mobile devices, which has meant a rush for app development experience. There is also increased demand for experience in new technologies such as machine learning and AI development, as the introduction of these into healthcare is likely to be a game changer that will have a significant effect on how patient care is strategised and delivered.

Who can apply?

Most graduate-level roles in this sector will require some experience of either technology or healthcare and a degree in a technology-related discipline. Many companies will also require applicants to have prior experience of software development and it may be possible to gain experience in coding, or another area of technology, at another organisation before moving into health informatics. However, it is possible that some employers will hire non-tech graduates and train in the necessary technology skills.

Career progression in health informatics

The type of work given to a new entrant to the health informatics sector will vary largely depending on the company they work for.

The ability to adapt quickly and change focus is highly valued in the sector, as this enables you to work in many different areas in healthcare technology. There are options for specialisation if you enjoy working in a particular area, such as software development or business leadership. There is no single path for career progression. Problem-solving skills are important, as the projects are complex, problems can be colossal and the solutions needs to be safe and simple.

Choose this if…

  • You want to work at the cutting edge, implementing new technology to revolutionise how healthcare is though about and delivered.
  • You want to work in a stimulating, fast-paced and exciting industry with fresh challenges every single day.
  • You want a job where you can make a tangible, positive difference to millions of people across the entire world.

SAM HARPER is a software developer at TPP (The Phoenix Partnership). He has a masters degree in physics from Imperial College London and has worked in the industry for five-and-a-half years.

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