Biomedical Informatics vs Healthcare Informatics: A Side-by-side Comparison

Healthcare informatics is the use of information technology to acquire and study health data and improve the life of patients at large. Biomedical informatics, on the other hand, is one of the many sub-branches of health informatics. This field is concerned with the use of biomedical data in particular to help patients.

While there is substantial overlap between these two fields, there are some important distinctions.

The following article provides a side-by-side comparison of health informatics and biomedical informatics, their subfields, educational requirements, salary, and licensing information.

Biomedical Informatics Healthcare Informatics
Definition

Biomedical informatics is a branch of health informatics. This interdisciplinary field attempts to analyze the biomedical data to solve problems and discover the best way to improve human health. Biomedical informatics focuses on both traditional and computational methods in biology and medicine, as well as research in genomics, proteomics, pharmacology, and other medical disciplines.

The ultimate goal of health informatics, also known as healthcare informatics, is to help clinicians provide superior healthcare. It is the practice of acquiring and studying health data, using medical concepts along with health information technology systems. The field is an integration of many disciplines such as computer science, healthcare sciences, cognitive science, and information science for assisting in the management of healthcare information. It is often used to describe the use of technology to improve patient care and better outcomes. Health informatics is a broader concept than biomedical informatics and directly related to healthcare treatment.

Subfields

Biomedical informatics, in addition to being a subfield of health informatics, includes the following four subfields:

  • Public health informatics: As the name suggests, this branch is focused on the whole society, to inform epidemiology and other population-wide medical phenomena.
  • Clinical informatics: This is patient-based and used for activities such as collecting, managing, storing and disseminating electronic medical records.
  • Imaging informatics: This is focused on organs and tissues, using advanced tools such as the computerized tomography scanner.
  • Bioinformatics: This branch deals with cellular and molecular processes such as genomic sequencing.

Health informatics consists of several fields such as:

  • Clinical informatics: This discipline of health informatics uses computer systems for analyzing and managing patient data, with the focus being patient care on an individual level.
  • Nursing informatics: This is a specialty that works with nursing science and many other information management and analytical sciences. The focus of this branch is to identify and manage data and knowledge in nursing practice. It is also used for communicating nursing wisdom.
  • Imaging informatics: It deals with how images are obtained and processed. Further, it is also concerned with the analysis, distribution, and retrieval of images across the electronic medical system.
  • Pharmacy informatics – This is concerned with medication-related data.
  • Public health informatics: This specialization is concerned with managing the spread of diseases, tracking the outbreak of illnesses, and studying the results of new treatments.

Other subfields include: biomedical informatics, translational bioinformatics, computational health informatics, nutrition informatics, and dental informatics.

Typical Duties

Typical responsibilities of a biomedical informatics expert include:

  • Analyzing problems and finding solutions
  • Creating new processes working with a group of peers
  • Understanding health-related information and its various concepts and models
  • Developing and applying methods, theories, and processes for the storage, retrieval, use, and management of biomedical data, information, and knowledge
  • Providing better biological knowledge for improving human health

In the pharmaceutical drug industry, biomedical informaticians also create and handle pharmacovigilance programs to ensure the safety of drug testing and clinical trials.

Responsibilities of a health informatician include:
  • Managing and using data for improving patient care
  • Gathering, storing, interpreting, and managing massive amounts of data
  • Analyzing data to help take crucial decisions and facilitate action
  • Developing data-driven solutions for improving the health of patients
  • Collaborating with other departments in the healthcare system and using data analysis to cut down costs and expenses
  • Designing and implementing tools for measuring data, patient care effectiveness, and processes
  • Facilitating communication between the IT and regulatory departments, so that the former can understand requirements clearly
Featured Educational Programs
Work Environments

A degree in biomedical informatics offers a wide range of career opportunities. Graduates can work in settings such as hospitals and health systems, community health centers, consulting services, academic institutions, health insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies.

Common job titles include:

  • Chief medical information officers
  • Chief medical officers
  • Directors of medical informatics
  • Project managers
  • Project designers
  • Programmers
  • Nursing informatics specialists
  • Chief nursing information officers

Healthcare informatics professionals work in diverse settings such as hospitals, clinics, surgical centers, government agencies and consulting firms.

Job titles include:

  • Nurse Informaticists
  • Health IT Consultants
  • Clinical Data Analyst
  • Chief Medical Information Officer
  • Director of Clinical Informatics
  • Health Information Resource Manager
  • HI Director
  • IT Consultant
Salary

Payscale (2019) states that the average salary for those with bioinformatics skills (a closely related discipline) is $81,000.

Please note that salaries vary widely based on location, job title, experience, and other factors.

Payscale (2019) states that the average salary for a health informatics specialist is $63,229.

Please note that salaries vary widely based on location, job title, experience, and other factors.

Licensing & Certification

While there is not a specific certification or license for biomedical informaticians, there is a Clinical Informatics Certification, which is in a related discipline.

Health information specialists are not required to be licensed. However, certification can help while getting a job.

Certification options include:

Resources
  1. https://www.ohsu.edu/school-of-medicine/medical-informatics-and-clinical-epidemiology/what-biomedical-informatics
  2. https://www.amia.org/sites/amia.org/files/AMIA-definition-of-Biomedical-Informatics-update.ppt
  3. https://www.usfhealthonline.com/resources/key-concepts/types-of-informatics-and-how-their-related/
The Bottom Line

Biomedical informatics is a subfield of health informatics, which develops, studies, and applies different theories and processes for generating, storing, and using biomedical data and information. It deals with biological systems and healthcare enterprises, as well as clinical research and practice.

Health informatics, on the other hand, uses information technology for organizing and analyzing health records to improve healthcare outcomes. It is focused on the resources and devices used for acquiring, storing, and analyzing healthcare data.

Barry Franklin
Barry Franklin Editor

Barry is the Editor-in-Chief of MedicalTechnologySchools.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Previously, Barry served as a VP at a Silicon Valley software company. In addition to running editorial operations at Sechel, Barry also serves on the Board of Trustees at a local K-8 school, and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, where he also met his wife.