Health manager in PanamaHealth informatics
Health informatics encompasses several broad domains, of which clinical health informatics and public health informatics are two of the most important. Whereas the former largely pertains to patient data, the latter focuses on broader health systems data such as disease incidence, health worker data, and logistics management. Health informatics also includes health systems management.

Health information technology (or a health information system) is a solution to the need for high-quality information and can include technologies such as databases, mobile phones, Internet-based services, or specialized hardware. Richer and higher-quality data sets can be achieved by ensuring interoperability of health information systems through data standardization and a common mechanism to exchange data.

Reliance on health informatics is growing in both developed and developing countries as availability, access, and basic familiarity with computers, mobile phones, and other electronic information tools becomes commonplace. While the benefits are largely understood and basic knowledge is more widespread, capacity to develop and utilize health informatics has not kept pace.

Responding to demand
National health stakeholders, regional organizations, and international development partners have increasingly looked to health information technology within public health settings to address challenges of efficiency and effectiveness—and this will only expand in the future. This demand is often framed in the context of mHealth, eHealth, telemedicine, electronic medical records, or some kind of information system, such as a training information system, a human resources information system, or a management information system.

Integrating or scaling up health informatics first requires senior decision-makers to consider their priority needs, in order to understand what health information technology can and cannot provide. They must then commit to oversee the process from selection to design and implementation. National stakeholders must be willing to collaborate, then choose and coordinate those systems likely to maximize the benefits to their country. Part of the strategic decision-making and planning process must include how to put in place or utilize competent staff who will install, operate, and maintain the systems as well as manage the data.

Once there is successful implementation of a broadened health informatics concept, health workers will find that there are significant positive changes in their daily routines at all levels, be they community health workers, nurses, physicians, laboratory technicians, or pharmacists.

The potential synergies are enormous if health workers at all levels of the health system are consulted. A thorough understanding of health informatics will result in concrete health output and outcome benefits. The availability of preservice education programs that produce competent personnel to develop and maintain health information products must be taken into account throughout the adoption, adaptation, and implementation process.

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