Can you tell us about your background - What sparked your interest in health informatics?
I have always been interested in healthcare from a young age but was more interested in solving healthcare problems using technology, at the time I didn't know of any jobs which fit this criteria in healthcare, as I was only initially exposed to traditional jobs in healthcare such as a doctor or nurse. Later on, I attended a summer camp where I learned about biomedical engineering, which I eventually went on to study and then I pivoted into specializing in health informatics during my master’s degree. During my masters, my thesis research was centered on predictive analytics and how machine learning algorithms could be used as a tool to help clinicians make decisions and improve outcomes for patients.
What does a typical day look like in your current role?
My work is focused on building reports which track key metrics for clinicians who work in the maternal and child space. Typically, I spend the day in meetings having conversations with clinicians to help define requirements for reports and I use SQL (structured query language), for writing queries to sort through the data and Excel for creating charts and graphs.
What are some of the best and worst parts about working in health informatics?
One of the best parts about working in health informatics is the feeling that your work is having an impact and that you are helping in your own way to improve patient outcomes. Another great part about working in health informatics is that you find yourself surrounded by people who are often trying to find creative ways to improve inefficiencies they encounter while working in the healthcare field. Therefore, there are always problems to work on, and the work doesn't get stale!
One of the worst parts is the barrier to entry, I found that it took me a while to be able to obtain an entry-level role in health informatics because some organizations are looking for 2-3 years of clinical experience. Therefore, it can be difficult for new grads to fulfill this criterion and they might be discouraged and give up trying to enter the field.
What advice would you give someone seeking a career in health informatics?
The advice I would give for someone looking for a career in health informatics is to try and obtain an internship, co-op placement or fellowship during school to obtain some kind of experience prior to applying for jobs. If this is not possible, I would create a clinical business intelligence portfolio to showcase to employers. A clinical business intelligence portfolio consists of a project with a clinical focus, for example, you could analyze a dataset online which contains data on patient readmission rates in hospitals.
Patient readmission rates is an issue that is costly for healthcare organizations and can be an indicator of future adverse events for patients. An example of a clinical business intelligence portfolio would be to document a project where you write SQL queries to analyze the readmission data and then use a data visualization tool (some of these tools you can download for free to play around with them such as Power BI Desktop) to create charts and graphs to showcase your analysis. You can document the results of your analysis in a blog post which you can link to on your resume, for employers to speak to you about during your interview, to showcase your initiative.
What are some of the trends within health informatics that you are excited about over the next decade?
One of the trends I am interested in, is the growing trend of using natural language processing, a subset of artificial intelligence, within the healthcare field. Natural language processing can be used as a tool to deal with the large volumes of unstructured text data which is often collected within healthcare organizations. In addition, natural language processing can be used to create medical or healthcare chatbots which can answer FAQs when patients are interacting with a patient portal, this can be a way to reduce the administrative load for clinical offices or hospitals.
Another trend I am excited to see grow is the use of voice-to-text to help reduce the burden of data entry in the EHR. With voice-to-text, this can consist of not just transcribing what the clinician or medical scribe is saying but potentially treating the EHR as Alexa or Google Nest. Where the clinician can ask questions and get quick responses from the EHR. There will have to be lots of work around this for instance, there will have to be flags built-into the system where transcription errors can be flagged easily but the future is bright!
Where can readers learn more about you?
Thank you for this interview. Readers can find the Health Analytic Insights podcast wherever they listen to podcasts or here. Readers who are interested in getting started in the health informatics field can check out the blog post I have written here on starting your career in health informatics.
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