Biostatistics and health informatics are two fields that are vital to the modern health care system. Both, however, use personal health information to either directly or indirectly improve patient care and treatment. Understanding the ways in which these two fields use health data will give you more confidence in knowing how and where your information is being used.
Keeping track of your health data is a must in today’s world. With so much uncertainty and mistrust surrounding personal data, it’s comforting to know that some personal health information is being used — with consent —to make the world a better place.
Here’s everything you need to know about biostatistics and health informatics.
What Are Biostatistics & Health Informatics?
Both integral aspects of the health care system, biostatistics and health informatics allow health care providers to understand a patient’s condition and treat him or her appropriately. Without these two fields, the health care system would be far less efficient, more uncertainty would surround treatment, and public health would be almost nonexistent.
Put simply: biostatistics is the branch of statistics that deals with living organisms — a group to which humans belong. A biostatistician — that is, one who studies biostatistics — is responsible for the design, implementation, and analysis of research studies. Clinical research is the backbone of our health care system. Without it, we wouldn’t know that smoking causes cancer, how to treat HIV, or that there’s a potentially effective COVID-19 vaccine.
The field of biostatistics brings objectivity into medical treatment. At the core of evidence-based practice, biostatistics informs every decision of every health care professional from your personal trainer to the world-renowned neurosurgeon. These professionals rely on clinical research to provide them with the most up-to-date information regarding health conditions and treatment options.
Additionally, public health relies heavily on biostatistics for just about everything. Giving public health officials insight into health trends across the country — and even around the world — biostatistics allows experts to identify large-scale problems, root out their causes, and find solutions.
Finally, researchers usually share biostatistical information with the health care community to promote evidence-based practice. This isn’t done in secret, though. In fact, biostatistical information is oftentimes publicly available, thus empowering anyone to learn more about their health and well-being.
In most cases, a single patient does not have a single doctor. Rather, they have a team of health care professionals that work together to give their patient the best possible care. If these professionals don’t communicate, though, the system becomes disjointed and ineffective. This is where health informatics comes in.
Health informatics is the gathering and storage of personal health information for the collaborative use of a patient’s health care team. Such a system allows each professional involved to have relevant health information readily available when they need it. In general, health informatics prevents a patient from having to relay his or her entire health history to the primary physician, the surgeon, the dietitian, and every nurse involved in his or her treatment.
Furthermore, health informatics depends on health information technology (or health IT) to function properly. According to the official website of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, health IT involves the hardware, software, and infrastructure used to procure, preserve, and protect personal health information. Health IT tools include mobile apps, video chat software, and e-prescribing systems.
How Do Biostatistics & Health Informatics Use Your Personal Health Information?
Although both health informatics and biostatistics use personal health information, your information is almost always protected. Health informatics disseminates health data to relevant professionals. However, your personal health information is protected by doctor-patient confidentiality as well as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Additionally, biostatisticians take confidentiality very seriously. All ethical research studies require participant consent, and many rely on anonymity for the purposes of both privacy and validity. In fact, most research studies will use pseudonyms, if necessary, or often just exclude personal identifiers altogether.
Understand Your Personal Health Information
Biostatistics and health informatics make up the backbone of modern health care. Together, they support nearly every aspect of the health care system from professional collaboration to vaccine efficacy. The loss of one or both of these fields would utterly debilitate the system.
That being said, both fields use personal health information to support care and treatment. Knowing who has access to your information and how they use it empowers you to make informed decisions about your information and be your own data privacy advocate.
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