How Applied Informatics Improves Care and Strengthens Health Care Organizations

November 03, 2020

If you had all the components to build the best car in the world but no plan to understand how they fit and work together, chances are you're not going to go very far. However, when correctly assembled, the full value will exceed the cost of the separate parts. And you will have a car to take you anywhere you want to go.

Health informatics is like that.

Each element of health informatics on its own is a valuable component or skill set. This includes information technology, data management, statistics and reporting, visual storytelling with data, clinical operations, health care policy and regulation, human resources, financial management, facilities management, communications, provider practice, and, of course, patients.

However, until or unless these components work together to help identify best practices, improve health outcomes, and control costs, they are just a collection of separate parts—no matter how sophisticated each may be.

Achieving that synergy is the definition of applied health informatics. This multi-disciplinary approach to organizational improvement involves every aspect of operations and leverages every department's interconnectedness and expertise. Its fundamental purpose is to facilitate informed decision making to achieve an organization's strategic or tactical goals. Its four essential elements are data, information, knowledge, and wisdom (DIKW).  While the DIKW pyramid's origin is subject to debate, its structure is proven and trustworthy.


The primary element of applied health information is raw data. By itself, data is essentially useless. Every health care organization produces reams of data comprised of facts or figures derived from daily operations, surveys, or measurements. Until or unless it is "applied," it just takes up computer storage space.


Information is what the data tells us—the who, where, what, when, and how many. Data becomes useful and relevant information when we begin to organize and give it structure.


We gain knowledge when information is processed or framed by previous experiences and context. When we evaluate organized information and bring it to life with impactful, visual presentations, we begin to convey its meaning and purpose to build a body of standardized understanding and expert insight.


Returning to the metaphor of building a car, wisdom is where the rubber meets the road. It is where knowledge becomes integrated into practice, becoming the "right thing to do" in a given situation. It is more profound than knowledge because it includes an understanding of "why" and is supported by conscious, ethical decision making.

Implementing an applied health informatics approach

Any organization will have to overcome some barriers to developing an applied informatics program. This may include outmoded technology or insufficient data storage or processing capabilities. Where most health care organizations operate on tight budgets, there may be financial constraints. There may also be cultural barriers, or "we've never done that before" syndrome—essentially failing the imagination to see how an organization, including its staff and patients or members, might benefit.

Commonwealth Medicine has been leading the way in health care informatics since 1999. Our team of applied informatics experts provides a range of clinically-focused solutions to health and human services agencies and organizations, helping them reach their program goals of providing the appropriate care for the populations they serve.

We will evaluate your data sets to reveal what it can tell you. We collaborate with your team members to build a body of information, together with clear, strong visual storytelling, so that your data becomes relevant and usable to achieve your goals and overcome challenges.

We draw on our deep experience to design, deliver, and evaluate clinical programming with a particular focus in the areas of pharmacy, long-term services and supports, disability determination and medical review, managed care technical assistance, and laboratory testing. Our team includes clinicians, pharmacists, and technical experts.

In the end, wisdom gained enables our client organizations to understand how all the pieces fit together to take them where they want to go.

Learn more about Mark Sugrue and our Clinical Delivery & Informatics Solution.