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“We have the greatest hospitals, doctors, and medical technology in the world—we need to make them accessible to every American.”

-Barbara Boxer


  • Describe the need for healthcare informatics specialists.

  • Highlight disciplines in the field of healthcare informatics.

  • Discuss professional certifications available for practitioners of healthcare informatics.

  • Identify core concepts of healthcare informatics pertinent for all disciplines.

  • Reveal emerging trends in healthcare informatics.


The word informatics was introduced around 1957 and was believed to be Russian (from informatika) in origin (Informatics, n.d. c; Informatics, n.d. a). Other sources have postulated that it was coined in the 1960s and was influenced by the combination of the words information and automatic (Informatics, n.d. b). Regardless of its origin, informatics has come to represent a growing field with a focus on the use of technology and data to improve patient care.

The more formalized role of informatics that we see today emerged with the implementation of the electronic health record (EHR). As advancements in technology continue at a record pace and more organizations adopt EHRs, informatics continues to evolve. Several disciplines (nursing, medicine, pharmacology, nutrition, and dentistry) have developed informatics expertise within their respective domains, each adding their skills and knowledge to a dynamic field.

Informatics is not just about the EHR, though. Although the EHR remains at the core of informatics practice, many areas within informatics’ scope deal with things peripheral or tangential to the EHR: for example, telehealth, use of mobile devices, patient portals, data analytics, use of technology for education, and conducting health IT research. Much of the focus of informatics work between 2003 and 2013 has clearly revolved around the EHR in the inpatient setting, but with changing payment models and care delivery systems consolidating and converging, informatics practice has begun to migrate outside the walls of the hospital and infiltrate new areas of practice.

This chapter introduces informatics within the domains of nursing, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, and others, along with educational and certification efforts to ensure competency of this new field. It also provides an overview of the core elements of informatics practice as well as emerging trends.


One might assume that the practice of informatics began in the 1960s; one could also argue, however, that at its core, informatics has been around for centuries. The medical record dates back to Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C. He noted that the patient's record should accurately reflect the course of the disease and indicate the probable cause of the disease—not too different from today's goals (National Institutes of Health National Center for Research Resources [NIH NCRR], 2006). Many have documented that the first informatics nurse was Florence Nightingale as she compiled and processed data to improve sanitation conditions in military hospitals during the Crimean War in ...

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