Public health informatics (PHI) is a field that can be defined as a junction between those of informatics and public health. Regmi, Bendel, and Gee (2016) state that there is no unified definition of the term, but they cautiously suggest characterizing it as a field that “requires the application of a distinctive range and blend of analytic, critical and interpretive skills to generate meaningful information for decision-making” (pp. 1-2). Thus, the key elements of PHI include the collection of relevant data from multiple sources, its analysis and interpretation, appropriate responses to the results, and, possibly, their communication to certain populations to inform or affect their activities (Regmi et al., 2016, p. 6). Modern-day PHI is very important for public health, and in the future years, it promises to become even more beneficial (Lehmann, Dixon, & Kharrazi, 2015).
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PHI focuses on group and population data (Aziz, 2017); it deals with big data. Thus, the challenges (for example, the management of huge amounts of data and the issues of training and funding) and benefits (in particular, the accuracy of predictions) of big healthcare data are transferred to PHI (Compton & Compton, 2014; Gibson, Shah, Streichert, & Verchick, 2016). Also, the field is very technology-dependent. The advancements in technology result in noticeable improvements in the speed and quality of PHI-related analyses, which allows making more accurate predictions and providing more appropriate responses (Gibso et al., 2016).
For instance, Kurland (2016) demonstrates the importance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for PHI and suggests that the future of these technologies is likely to boost the benefits of employing GIS in PHI further (p. 117). The examples of PHI applications include the modeling of Malaria outbreaks in accordance with the specifics of climate, to which GIS technology can contribute significantly (Compton & Compton, 2014, p. 5561). Another example is collecting data on diseases like viral and bacterial pneumonia with the help of death records to determine patterns in the occurrence and detection of the illnesses (Compton & Compton, 2014, p. 5562). Moreover, PHI can be used to determine the need for healthcare resources (including human ones), which is especially applicable to disasters (Aziz, 2017, p. 80). In general, PHI applications are numerous and vital for public health (Gibson et al., 2016).
According to Lehmann et al. (2015), PHI is a rapidly expanding field that has a notable positive impact on public healthcare. However, the authors also suggest that certain healthcare areas that have the potential of benefiting from PHI have yet to integrate it into their practice. They suggest examples of electronic health records and social media use in healthcare as the areas that should employ PHI to benefit the future.
According to Compton and Compton (2014), PHI enables the prevention of public health issues. It improves the accuracy of epidemiological predictions while also boosting medical professionals’ competency and expanding the healthcare knowledge base. Regmi et al. (2016) also state that PHI is a crucial instrument in reducing healthcare disparities. To sum up, PHI is a significant component of modern public health activities; it is extremely beneficial today. It promises to become more useful with the development of relevant technologies.
Aziz, H. (2017). A review of the role of public health informatics in healthcare. Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences, 12(1), 78-81.
Compton, M., & Compton, D. (2014). Public health informatics: A brief review of the field. British Journal of Medicine and Medical Research, 4(35), 5558-5567. Web.
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Gibson, P., Shah, G., Streichert, L., & Verchick, L. (2016). Urgent challenges for local public health informatics. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 22, S6-S8. Web.
Kurland, K. (2016). Geographic information systems in health. In K. Regmi & I. Gee (Eds.), Public health intelligence (pp. 111-128). New York, NY: Springer.
Lehmann, H., Dixon, B., & Kharrazi, H. (2015). Public health and epidemiology informatics: Recent research and trends in the United States. IMIA Yearbook, 10(1), 199-206.
Regmi, K., Bendel, N. & Gee, I. (2016). Public health intelligence: An overview. In K. Regmi & I. Gee (Eds.), Public health intelligence (pp. 1-18). New York, NY: Springer.