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What Is Imaging Informatics? Career Outlook

March 15, 2021  |  Category: Imaging

A doctor easily pulls up medical images when consulting about a patient thanks to imaging informatics.

Changes and advances in technology have had an impact on every industry. In healthcare, technology has resulted in electronic health records, telehealth, and a host of other improvements for medical facilities and their patients. It has also had a significant impact in the area of radiology.

Radiology has been an important aspect of the medical field for over 100 years; however, many essential imaging techniques and components that medical professionals use today — including imaging informatics — have only been around for a few decades.

Individuals who are interested in the collaboration between information management and radiology might be wondering what imaging informatics encompasses and how to become an imaging informaticist. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Imaging Sciences is a great first step for those who want to pursue a career in the field.

Imaging Informatics Defined

Imaging informatics, according to the clinical search engine Radiology Key, is “the use of information technology to deliver efficient, accurate, and reliable medical imaging services within a healthcare network.” Also referred to as radiology informatics or medical imaging informatics, the field is responsible for storing, managing, and accessing image-related information and data. The specific goal of imaging informatics is to improve patient care by better managing imaging data and making it as accurate and accessible as possible.

Imaging informatics is one element of the broader category of biomedical informatics (sometimes just called health informatics). As health information management systems become more complex, more categories of informatics are created. Imaging informatics was developed around the same time as electronic health records to improve the efficiency and reliability of medical services through the use of data.

Data mining from radiologic databases and computer-aided diagnostics work together to ensure the accuracy of medical imaging. Most hospitals, clinics, physician’s offices, ambulatory services, and medical organizations rely on medical imaging informatics. The use of imaging informatics through computer information systems has applications across several areas of practice, including cardiology, surgery, obstetrics, and gynecology.

Responsibilities of an Imaging Informaticist

Professionals in imaging informatics can have varying job descriptions, depending on where they work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 37% of medical records and health information technologists work in hospitals. Others work for scientific and technical service providers, medical and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers, and physicians’ offices.

In a medical setting, imaging technologists are responsible for performing X-ray, ultrasound, mammography, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. Imaging informaticists then serve as the bridge between those technologists, doctors, and IT professionals by collecting, sorting, and storing the images in the facility’s database.

With a secure transmission network, imaging informaticists view and manipulate the images before placing them in the picture archiving and communication system (PACS). They organize and store the images in a digital archive where the physician or technologist can easily and quickly access them again. Imaging informaticists can regularly communicate with members of the radiology department through the radiology information system (RIS). This long-term storage process for medical images is part of a healthcare organization’s overall computer information system that stores data about every patient.

Imaging informaticists are also responsible for monitoring and correcting technical issues within a medical facility’s PACS. They oversee the regular maintenance and updating of PACS hardware and equipment, and often work with third-party technology vendors. Providing support for radiology departments, and teaching technologists how to use PACS software and other radiology IT systems, is another duty of imaging informaticists.

How to Become an Imaging Informaticist

Imaging informaticists contribute to the efficiency of their organizations and the care of patients by combining their knowledge of imaging modalities and computer information systems. The following steps can help an individual pursue a career in imaging informatics.

Step #1: Earn a Degree

As health information management becomes more complex, it is essential for professionals in the field to have an educational background and training in medical imaging. While some organizations employ individuals with an associate’s degree in a field such as diagnostic imaging, earning a bachelor’s degree may be necessary for most imaging informatics roles. Those who are looking to work as imaging informaticists can establish a strong educational foundation by earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science or imaging sciences.

Step #2: Obtain Certification

Although not required for every position, certification can be an important step in competing for available jobs and career advancement. The American Board of Imaging Informatics (ABII) offers credentialing as a Certified Imaging Informatics Professional (CIIP). CIIPs are endorsed as having the “unique blend of technical, clinical and business skills necessary” for an imaging informatics role. Certification lasts for 10 years, with continuing education required every two years during that time.

Step #3: Gain Experience

Individuals who are interested in advancing in the field of imaging informatics should gain relevant experience. That experience generally includes imaging experience (across multiple modalities is helpful), as well as experience with PACS and other radiology and health IT systems. Individuals who acquire several years of experience can potentially step into more advanced roles and earn higher salaries.

According to the BLS, the annual median salary for medical records and health information technologists is $42,630. Salaries can range from $27,820 to $71,150 based on job location, medical facility, years of experience, and education level.

Pursue a Career in Medical Imaging

As science and technology come together to improve patient outcomes, it is an exciting time to work in healthcare. Individuals who wish to work at that intersection of science and technology can consider an education from AdventHealth University Online. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Imaging Sciences degree from the university is one path to a career as an imaging informaticist.

The flexible online program at AdventHealth University Online offers six specialties, including Imaging Leadership and Interdisciplinary tracks. Students take such courses as Management Principles for Imaging Professionals, Digital Imaging and Informatics, and Issues and Trends in the Healthcare Arena.

Learn more about how a Bachelor of Science in Imaging Sciences can prepare you for a rewarding career.

Sources:
American Board of Imaging Informatics, “About Informatics”
CME Science, “History of Radiology”
Indeed, Imaging Informatics Jobs
Mendeley, “Radiology Informatics Analyst”
NCBI, “Imaging Informatics: 25 Years of Progress”
Radiology Key, “Radiology Informatics”
Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine, “Become a Certified Imaging Informatics Professional (CIIP)”
Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Medical Records and Health Information Technicians”