What Is the Difference Between Health Informatics and Public Health Informatics?

As technology continues to evolve, it becomes more essential for software to be used in advantageous ways for multiple industries, including the healthcare field. There are many potential applications of advanced software and computer science in the healthcare field, such as health informatics and public health informatics. Learn more about the difference between these analysis methods.

What Is the Difference Between Health Informatics and Public Health Informatics?

The biggest differences between health informatics and public health informatics are the intended audience and the use of these methods. In general, health informatics is used to gather healthcare data about particular patients being cared for by practitioners or medical facilities. Public health informatics, on the other hand, focuses on a larger population to gather data and predict health outcomes.

As for the intended audience, health informatics is typically used by primary care physicians and other specialists who need to treat individual patients. Public informatics, by contrast, is used by epidemiologists, government health organizations, and global organizations that monitor disease outbreaks and patterns.

Uses for Health Informatics

Health informatics can be used in a few ways to improve the patient care experience. By using effective informatics and cloud-based technology at a practice, physicians can provide more accurate care with more efficiency. Some of the main ways health informatics can benefit patient care in hospitals and private practices include:

Predict Patient Conditions

Health informatics combines easily accessible cloud-based information about the patient with AI technology that will allows software to predict patient conditions. For example, AI software can automatically use formulas to calculate a patient’s likelihood of developing diabetes based on BMI and other body measurements.

Predicting patient conditions can also make it easier to diagnose patients. This is an essential component of health informatics used by physicians since the symptoms of many diseases can overlap, which can make it challenging to reach a correct diagnosis. Because AI can analyze a large amount of data at one time, this makes it easier to quickly and correctly diagnose patients to provide better care.

Patient Alerts

Health informatics systems can also be programmed with patient alerts that make it easier for healthcare providers and patients to oversee healthcare needs. For example, advanced technology can integrate alerts for routine medical needs, such as flu shots, annual physicals, and specialized procedures to monitor patient health. For practitioners, patient alerts can be important to ensure no patient needs are overlooked, particularly since regular testing with colonoscopies, mammograms, and other labs are essential for preventative medicine.

On the patient end, some health informatics can allow patients to have access to certain alerts or reminders for routine care. For example, patients may be able to use online portals to receive health reminders on annual flu shots, vaccines, exams, and other infrequent preventive health screenings that may be easy to overlook or forget.

Information Storage and Retrieval

Health informatics can also make it easier for doctors to store and retrieve patient information. The best example of this is the way certain scans and lab reports are stored on healthcare portals. Ideally, health informatics will make it easier for these scans and lab reports to be organized so that doctors can more easily retrieve this data and provide a more accurate diagnosis for the patient.

Voice Dictation

Finally, advanced health informatics can be integrated with voice dictation, which can speed up doctor efficiency and improve overall organization. Instead of taking notes by hand, voice dictation can allow for real-time transcriptions of patient consultations, which then can be attached to patient files so there is accurate information about the consultation. Since voice dictation software has a low margin of error, doctors will only need to proofread transcripts.

Uses for Public Health Informatics

Public health informatics is generally more advanced since these systems will need to process a larger amount of data. Some information systems for public use are intended for metropolitan areas, states, countries, or even global populations. When used to research public health concerns and implement plans to improve public health, advanced technology and computer science can vastly improve health outcomes for large populations.

Public Health Surveillance

Perhaps one of the biggest uses of health informatics for the public is public health surveillance. Essentially, surveillance acts as a way to continually survey health trends in large populations, which can then be used to predict disease outbreaks. Public health surveillance is particularly important during epidemics and pandemics to track the progression of the disease through communities.

That said, public health surveillance can also be used to track the progression of other diseases. For example, informatics used by public health officials may track trends related to childhood obesity, depression, and nuanced health concerns that may be caused by environmental pollutants.

Disease Prevention

Informatics used for public health purposes can also be important for disease prevention. As a byproduct of surveilling large populations, diseases can be predicted by AI technology. When diseases can be predicted, decision-makers can more easily advise public health officials on how to prevent disease escalation. The best example of this is using informatics to track the severity of the current influenza virus every flu season to prevent more serious outcomesin vulnerable populations.

Public Health Preparedness

Another crucial role of public health informatics is public health preparedness. Because informatics can gather and analyze a large amount of data, this can make it easier for public health officials to create plans to be prepared for outbreaks of major diseases.

There are some sectors of government health organizations that are dedicated to gathering supplies that may be necessary for epidemics, which can include personal protective equipment, vaccines, and resources for vulnerable populations. Public health preparedness is essential since contingency plans and other preparation can potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Outbreak Management

Health informatics for public use can also be used for outbreak management. Perhaps the best example of this is the outbreak management used by governments during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. By using analytics and computer science, public health officials were able to track disease outbreaks and better manage vaccine rollouts so all populations can receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Furthermore, outbreak management during the pandemic also incorporated elements of public health surveillance, such as regularly analyzing levels of COVID-19 viral particles in sewage systems in metropolitan areas. This became important to predict disease outbreaks, since higher levels of viral particles in sewage systems correlated to higher levels of hospitalizations from COVID.

Electronic Laboratory Reporting

Electronic laboratory reporting on a larger scale is also an important function of informatics for public health. Electronic laboratory reporting may be particularly essential when public health officials need to analyze levels of epidemic or pandemic outbreaks. By analyzing laboratory reports, public health officials can make a better assessment of which populations are more vulnerable to disease.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, electronic laboratory reporting was used to track positive COVID-19 tests by county, state, and country. These positive results were broken down based on gender, age, and ethnicity. All of these factors were analyzed, which led to public health officials determining that ethnic minorities and elderly people were at higher risk of developing serious disease.

Predictive Modeling

Finally, informatics for public health can also be used in predictive modeling. By analyzing data used for public health surveillance, public health officials can better predict disease outbreaks. Predictive modeling can also be used as a way to assess how effective public health recommendations are.

For example, public health recommendations to increase exercise and lower sugar intake may be compared to the rate of obesity in children and adults. Predictive modeling can be a way that public health officials can alter messaging to create more effective public health recommendations as well.

How Do These Informatic Systems Work?

Informatics systems combine information analysis, computer science, and advanced software to perform data analytics for health purposes. Two of the most crucial elements of informatic systems include cloud-based technology and artificial intelligence, both of which continue to improve each day to provide better analysis for public health officials, practitioners, and patients.

Cloud-Based Systems

Cloud-based systems are essential for accurate health informatics since a large amount of data can be stored on the cloud. Additionally, information stored on the cloud can be retrieved by multiple users and can be updated in an instant, which makes it easier for advanced technology to automatically analyze new data.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is also a vital point of health informatics, particularly when data analysis needs to create a predictive model for a patient or the general population. Artificial intelligence reduces human error by calculating predictive models and can also improve diagnostic challenges.

In the modern age, health informatics is important for doctors, healthcare facilities, and public health officials to improve the health of people. Public informatics is important for predictive modeling, laboratory reporting, public health preparedness, disease prevention, outbreak management, and public health surveillance. To learn more about implementing health informatics to improve patient care and public health preparedness, contact RiverAxe today.