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Importance of Data Visualization in Health Informatics

Healthcare — including providers, insurers, pharmaceuticals and administration — accounts for about 20% of the United States’ gross domestic product, with total spending in 2028 expected to exceed $6 trillion, up from nearly $5 trillion in 2020.

The industry’s global investment in advanced technology and data management is growing along with consumer spending, increasing to $26.1 billion in 2018. Market research anticipates a valuation of $42.3 billion by 2030.

The investment growth is driven by the sheer volume of data now generated by the industry which is, in turn, creating demand for professionals with experience and degrees in degrees in health informatics and the science, systems and software behind emerging data technologies and applications.

What Is Health Informatics?

As the pace of the healthcare industry’s trend toward digitization gains speed, informatics is a crucial factor in managing costs and improving outcomes, according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). Informatics is the integration of health, computer and information sciences, and the HIMSS predicts the ongoing evolution of technology and information management will have a significant impact in three areas:

  1. Clinical Informatics is so critical that executive-level and senior leadership roles — chief medical informatics officer, for instance, and director of clinical informatics — will increase.
  2. Management Informatics supports data-driven decision-making processes in operations ranging from clinical staffing and payroll to material control and patient billing.
  3. Policy is impacted, as the volume of COVID-19 data and the velocity at which it was created enabled public health entities from the global to local levels to adjust responses to it almost daily.

“With the upward trend of the development of more medical monitoring applications for organizations and individuals, the amount of data that will need to be visualized, analyzed, and explored will indeed continue to grow rapidly in the upcoming years,” Lightning Chart, a data visualization technology provider, notes.

Why Are Data Visualizations Important?

The healthcare industry generated some 2,314 exabytes (an exabyte is a billion gigabytes) and is adopting artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to identify and analyze trends that humans could never find in the massively complex data sets.

Still, to be useful in clinical, managerial or policy settings, the AI/ML analytics must be rendered as visualizations to communicate the meaning of the data and trends via real-time dashboards, heat maps, data plots and charts and infographics.

The benefits of providing digital information in visual formats include:

  • Improving clinical services: Visualizations enable non-technical medical professionals and staff to evaluate data that integrates symptoms, interventions and outcomes.
  • Increasing patient involvement: As consumers become more active in their own medical management, insurers and providers use visualizations to educate patients on their health compared to other, demographically similar patients and ways to improve their conditions.
  • Coordinating public health responses: During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, health agencies used visualizations such as heat maps and dashboards to keep populations advised of the spread of the disease.
  • Gaining efficiencies: Visualizations enable decision-makers to understand quickly how operations are performing against their metrics and identify opportunities for improvement.

The American Health Information Management Association calls expertise in creating data visualizations an “essential skill” in the high-demand profession of health informatics simply because: “Most people process and recognize patterns in visuals more quickly than from text signals … The use of visual aids allows most people to understand and recognize patterns within large amounts of data much faster than when faced with the raw data alone.”

How Do Healthcare Professionals Acquire Essential Informatics Expertise?

The Master of Science (M.S.) in Health Informatics online program at Northern Kentucky University equips graduates with insights into research methods, data analysis techniques and information governance best practices.

Through studies into the role of informatics in improving outcomes, supporting care coordination and enabling health reform, graduates gain implementation strategies and insights into:

  • approaches to systems development such as rapid application development (RAD) and joint application development (JAD)
  • the basics of empirical health informatics research in self-directed research projects
  • data modeling, database design and implementation of relational, object-oriented and semantic databases

Health informatics professionals will be prepared to work in a lucrative field where their expertise in not only in high demand but also critical to improving overall patient outcomes.

Learn more about Northern Kentucky University’s online M.S. in Health Informatics program.

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