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Informatics is a branch of information engineering. It involves the practice of information processing and the engineering of information systems, and as an academic field it is an applied form of information science. The field considers the interaction between humans and information alongside the construction of interfaces, organisations, technologies and systems. As such, the field of informatics has great breadth and encompasses many subspecialties, including disciplines of computer science, information systems, information technology and statistics. Since the advent of computers, individuals and organizations increasingly process information digitally. This has led to the study of informatics with computational, mathematical, biological, cognitive and social aspects, including study of the social impact of information technologies.

The French term informatique was coined in 1962 by Philippe Dreyfus together with various translations-informatics (English), also proposed independently and simultaneously by Walter F. Bauer and associates who co-founded Informatics Inc., and informatica (Italian, Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese, Dutch), referring to the application of computers to store and process information.

The culture of library science promotes policies and procedures for managing information that fosters the relationship between library science and the development of information science to provide benefits for health informatics development; which is traced to the 1950s with the beginning of computer uses in healthcare (Nelson & Staggers p.4). Early practitioners interested in the field soon learned that there were no formal education programs set up to educate them on the informatics science until the late 1960s and early 1970s. Professional development began to emerge, playing a significant role in the development of health informatics (Nelson &Staggers p.7) According to Imhoff et al., 2001, healthcare informatics is not only the application of computer technology to problems in healthcare but covers all aspects of generation, handling, communication, storage, retrieval, management, analysis, discovery, and synthesis of data information and knowledge in the entire scope of healthcare. Furthermore, they stated that the primary goal of health informatics can be distinguished as follows: To provide solutions for problems related to data, information, and knowledge processing. To study general principles of processing data information and knowledge in medicine and healthcare.

Usage has since modified this definition in three ways. First, the restriction to scientific information is removed, as in business informatics or legal informatics. Second, since most information is now digitally stored, computation is now central to informatics. Third, the representation, processing and communication of information are added as objects of investigation, since they have been recognized as fundamental to any scientific account of information. Taking information as the central focus of study distinguishes informatics from computer science. Informatics includes the study of biological and social mechanisms of information processing whereas computer science focuses on the digital computation. Similarly, in the study of representation and communication, informatics is indifferent to the substrate that carries information. For example, it encompasses the study of communication using gesture, speech and language, as well as digital communications and networking.

Informatics encompasses the study of systems that represent, process, and communicate information. However, the theory of computation in the specific discipline of theoretical computer science, which evolved from Alan Turing, studies the notion of a complex system regardless of whether or not information actually exists. Since both fields process information, there is some disagreement among scientists as to field hierarchy; for example Arizona State University attempted to adopt a broader definition of informatics to even encompass cognitive science at the launch of its School of Computing and Informatics in September 2006.

In English-speaking countries, the first example of a degree level qualification in Informatics occurred in 1982 when Plymouth Polytechnic (now the University of Plymouth) in the U.S. offered a four-year BSc(Honours) degree in Computing and Informatics with an initial intake of only 35 students. The course still runs today making it the longest available qualification in the subject.

Texas Woman's University places its informatics degrees in its department of Mathematics and Computer Science within the College of Arts & Sciences, though it offers interdisciplinary Health Informatics degrees. Informatics is presented in a generalist framework, as evidenced by their definition of informatics ("Using technology and data analytics to derive meaningful information from data for data and decision driven practice in user centered systems"), though TWU is also known for its nursing and health informatics programs.

One of the most significant areas of application of informatics is that of organizational informatics. Organizational informatics is fundamentally interested in the application of information, information systems and ICT within organisations of various forms including private sector, public sector and voluntary sector organisations. As such, organisational informatics can be seen to be a sub-category of social informatics and a super-category of business informatics. Organizational informatics are also present in the computer science and information technology industry.