Health Informatics

Career Options

The field of health informatics has evolved dramatically since the 2006 launch of Northwestern’s original Medical Informatics (MMI) Program. Once primarily the purview of physicians and technologists, the field now engages a much broader and growing spectrum of clinical, technical, administrative and financial services professionals collaborating in hospitals, group practices, nursing care centers, home health agencies, laboratories, community care facilities and family services agencies, among other settings. Increasingly, the challenges and opportunities of this burgeoning field also attract innovators and entrepreneurs from industries outside the health care mainstream. Northwestern’s MHI program responds to these dynamic trends to meet the current and future educational needs of individuals who are entering, or are currently employed in, the field of health informatics. 


Information management is critical to the provision of health care in the 21st century. The tools of medical informatics help make patient care safer and more effective, and the increased use of information systems such as electronic patient records promises enormous cost savings and improved efficiency. As modern health care increasingly depends on information management, employment prospects for those skilled in the field of health informatics will continue to grow. Whether their chosen specializations are clinical, technical or administrative, graduates of Northwestern's MHI program will benefit not only from the growth of health informatics, but also from increasing demand for efficiency, patient-centered care, and  improved outcomes in health care.

MHI Potential

Compliance with federal legislation incentivizing the use of information systems continues to drive the growth of health informatics employment and changes in its composition. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and independent analysts, positions for medical records and health information technicians are projected to increase 22% through 2022. As the health enterprise shifts to health services delivery and performance-based payment models requiring optimal data management and use, such as accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes, BLS also projects significant growth in employment opportunities for medical and health services managers. Positions for these executive and administrative professionals, who adapt to health care regulatory and technology changes to plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services in a variety of settings, are projected to increase 23% through 2022.

A Range of Opportunities

A key position in medical health informatics is the executive position of Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO), one of the fastest-growing positions in health care,  according to the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems. Typically, the CMIO is a board-certified or board-eligible physician who maintains a part-time clinical practice while developing and implementing IT strategies and educating users of clinical information systems. As health care organizations pivot from systems implementation to data management and use, the CMIO is joined in the C-Suite by an evolving array of administrative, financial and management professionals in other key roles, including the Chief Quality Officer, Chief Safety Officer, Chief Analytics Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Transition Officer, and Chief Patient Quality and Safety Officer—to name just a few.

Other strong areas for health informatics jobs include:

Health Care Administration and Management

  • Develop financing, implementation, and life cycle strategies for integrating information systems

  • Leverage innovative IT and business models from industries outside the health care enterprise

  • Extract and use data from health information systems to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements

Health Information Technology

  • Consult with health organization clinical, administrative and financial management to plan, design and develop information systems

  • Maintain and operate data management, storage and retrieval systems to support information classification and analysis

  • Ensure that information systems protect the security, confidentiality and integrity of medical records in compliance with regulatory requirements

Clinical IT Leadership

  • Promote the design and deployment of new technologies to improve patient outcomes and population health

  • Collaborate on design of sustainable clinical decision support and knowledge-based systems

  • Lead organizational IT transitions and change management

Research

  • Develop new techniques and technologies for integrating clinical and research data and information

  • Mine a rich array of “big data” to track social determinants of health and public health issues

  • Collaborate with industry as a consultant, providing clinical input during design process

Education / Academic

  • Teach medical and clinical students, residents and fellows core informatics concepts

  • Develop education programs in biomedical informatics

  • Foster patient education to support engagement, empowerment, and patient-generated data

Organizations Needing Medical Informatics Professionals with Master’s Degrees include:

  • Hospitals and other health care providers

  • Private health care practices

  • Medical software companies

  • Healthcare consulting firms

  • Pharmaceutical companies

  • Medical device and medical technology companies

  • Medical libraries

  • Public health organizations

  • Government agencies and non-governmental organizations

  • Health care associations

  • Insurance and other health care reimbursement-related companies

  • Research laboratories

  • Universities and colleges