Health informatics: graduate area of work
Health informatics tends to be used as a catch-all term for IT within the NHS. The term is fairly NHS-specific but the numerous specialisms within it apply elsewhere, both within the public and private sectors. These specialisms tend to deal with the collection, storage, management, use and sharing of healthcare data and information, and include:
- clinical informatics: development of digital tools to support clinical professionals delivering frontline services
- education and training: training and development of the workforce in using IT and other digital technologies
- health records and patient administration: collection, storage and access of patients’ healthcare records
- IT: in the NHS this term is primarily used to relate to the management and support of the IT infrastructure
- information management: providing analysis, interpretation and presentation of health data
- libraries and knowledge management: supporting the workforce in searching and understanding the latest research in healthcare
- project and programme management: providing overall support for the development of IT and health informatics within NHS care providers.
Graduates wanting to work in health informatics need to know...
Health informatics and IT are growth areas in the NHS, with the increasing development and implementation of electronic healthcare records and other digital tools. In addition, the NHS aims to be paper free by 2020, as set out by NHS England in its Five Year Forward View report. There is likely to be an increase in career opportunities in health informatics and IT in the next few years as a result of commitments to develop the workforce in these areas.
Also, be aware of the interest that the NHS and health informatics are getting from the private sector. In future, more partnerships are likely with private sector companies that provide technological developments in healthcare systems.
Who can apply?
The level of experience and knowledge required to go into health informatics and IT depends on the type of role that you are applying for. Roles can range from entry-level technicians and administrators to graduate-level information analysts and project managers.
For example, the NHS graduate scheme, which offers opportunities in health informatics, requires a 2.2 in any subject at undergraduate level, with certain specialisations having additional requirements.
Career progression in health informatics
Typical graduate roles are in business analysis, information analysis and project management. You may have placements in a range of different settings within healthcare, from large acute hospitals to community providers and commissioners.
Graduates have gone on to have various roles within the NHS. In the short term this has included senior analyst roles, service management, project management and quality improvement management; and into even more senior roles such as head of business intelligence. In the longer term, graduates may have the opportunity to progress into more senior roles, including director-level opportunities with responsibility for IT and information management within a whole hospital or organisation, such as the director of informatics or chief information officer.
Richard Betteridge is graduate trainee in health informatics at the NHS Leadership Academy. He has been in his role for a year, with two years’ previous experience as a clinician.