How to Choose Best Online Health Informatics Degree

This article discusses why you would want to earn a degree in health informatics. It will tell you the types of health informatics degrees that are available, specialties, why you would want to earn this degree, as well as information about program accreditation.

What Is a Health Informatics Degree?

A degree in health informatics encompasses all aspects of health care information science, which spans from fundamental research to clinical applications. A degree in health informatics deals with the effective organization, analysis, management and use of information in healthcare.

Health informatics professionals utilize technology to deliver health care services more efficiently. They provide the bridge between good patient care and evolving technology that handles most of a patient’s medical information today.

The health informatics field does share some of these areas and interests with other specialties in health care, but a health informatics degree has its own emphases and approaches that make it a separate degree program today.

A degree in health informatics will focus greatly on information science and health care. A graduate of this type of program will be an expert in how to acquire, store, protect, retrieve and use a great deal of information about health and medicine in hospitals, doctors’ offices and other medical facilities.

You will have a deep grasp of how computerized and non-computerized information systems are organized. Also, you will understand information workflows, clinical guidelines and medical terminology.

Why Earn a Health Informatics Degree?

More professionals are deciding to earn a health informatics degree because there is a growing, aging population in America that is demanding more health care services of all kinds. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there will be a huge 19% growth in job demand by 2024 in health care generally.

This means there will be more than two million new jobs, and millions of new health care patients. Therefore, there will be a major demand for all of that electronic medical information to be handled effectively and efficiently.

Also, US News and World Reports states that the health informatics career is exploding because so much health information is now available on the Internet, leading to major employment opportunities. That publication also states that employment of health informatics workers is poised to grow twice as fast as other forms of employment in the US.

Further, the American Medical Informatics Association states that these jobs are surging because many healthcare providers around the US need information experts. These professionals are in high demand because these organizations have to comply with new federal mandates to create electronic health records that can be easily shared between providers. Financial penalties have been imposed on healthcare organizations who work with Medicare and Medicaid and do not have electronic health records.

Choosing Your Informatics Degree Path

The health informatics field is still quite new, but there are many degree programs that you can choose from. The most common are:

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics: Earning a master’s degree in health informatics is a good choice for the professional who has a background already in the IT and/or healthcare IT field. Professionals who earn this advanced degree may be able to move into positions that include chief information officer, HIM director, clinical data analyst, compliance officer, IT consultant and health data resource manager.
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management: If you have less experience in the IT or healthcare IT field, you may want to first earn your bachelor’s degree in this booming field. If you have a degree in another field that is unrelated to health informatics, this could be a good fit for you.
  • Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration: Another option is to earn your undergraduate or graduate degree in healthcare administration. There is some overlap with health informatics in many healthcare administration programs. Earning a healthcare administration degree can help you to eventually earn a leadership position in many healthcare organizations. You also will gain a good understanding of health information management systems and will be able to make recommendations on how to better manage that information for compliance and efficiency purposes.

Online Health Informatics Degree Options

University of Miami

There are a number of excellent online health informatics programs that you may earn entirely online, such as the Master of Science in Health Informatics program at the University of Miami.

This program takes 22 months to complete full-time, and most of its graduates go on to take high ranking health informatics and administration positions in hospitals, government, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and more.

This accredited program readies you for the most important roles in health care organizations that are affected by the move towards electronic healthcare record systems.

It has been designed for professionals who are striving for a management position in health care management and technology. These professionals will be responsible for managing the gap that exists often between health care workers and data.

You will learn how to effectively manage patient records and practitioner data, and other critical information that is vital to securely and accurately manage electronic health records.

This program also will teach you how to stay as up to date as possible on medical terminology and new guidelines. You also will be aprised of the most important state and federal laws that relate to management and dispersal of confidential patient health data.

You can take the required courses on your own schedule (no set class times), and these classes include:

  • Introduction to Health Informatics
  • Healthcare Databases, Design, Development and Clinical Application
  • System Life Cycle and Project Management
  • Health Information Exchange
  • Pharmacy Informatics
  • Public Health Informatics
  • Legal, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues in Health Informatics
  • Data Analytics and Applications for Health Informatics
  • Structure and Processes in Healthcare Organization and Health Policy

The online health informatics program has a high quality and experienced faculty that has many years of experience in the field. One of these is CIO Doris Peek from Broward Health System. Most of the faculty are Ph.D.s in the field and they understand all of the complexities of this field in the real world. They also are easy to contact outside of class, so you can always get the help you need, even with your busy schedule.

A major benefit of attending this program at the University of Miami is that you can access the Toppel Career Center. This is the university’s highly regarded career services organization that are available to all online students. No matter if you want to improve your skills in interviewing, get help with your resume, or find a job after graduation, Toppel can help you.

The university also has a large alumni support network that can help you to network in the field of health informatics and to find a job after graduation.

University of South Florida

Students who want to position themselves to lead the technological transformation of healthcare may consider the Master of Health Informatics from the University of South Florida. This program is 100% online and is the only medical school in the US that offers this master of science completely online.

Earning your master’s degree from a very prestigious medical school means that you will learn from faculty medical professionals and IT experts who already are working in healthcare. The graduate program at the University of South Florida uses live, streaming video, chat rooms, white boards, discussion boards with professors, social networks and more to keep you connected and learning.

The master’s program in health informatics at the University of South Florida will teach you both clinical informatics and health information systems informatics. The focus is primarily on the integration and the interoperability of technology. The courses will provide you with the critical technical skills and organizational abilities that are needed to thrive in upper management roles.

Some of the things that you will learn include:

  • Learn how to acquire, store and interpret information that health care professionals with every day.
  • Be able to manage data in relational database systems and structured query language. Also learn to understand data warehousing, analytic processing, issues in quality data, emerging cloud databases and advanced data mining.
  • Discover how to integrate EHRs or electronic healthcare records with top quality patient care, and offer better care quality through superior management and medical information.
  • Be able to assess limitations, functions, challenges and opportunities in IT in the environment of healthcare.
  • Become skilled in defining medical language and classification systems.
  • Be in compliance with regulations and laws that relate to managing patient information.
  • Learn to consider all ethical issues that come into play when using e-medicine models.

This program is well designed for those who either are working in health care informatics or are working in another field. People who have graduated from this program come from the following backgrounds:

  • Doctors
  • Medical students
  • Nurses
  • Physical therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Mental health professionals
  • Other healthcare professionals
  • IT workers
  • Health information managers

Required courses include:

  • Foundation in Management Information Systems
  • Integrated Electronic Medical Records
  • Health Data Management
  • Introduction to Health Informatics
  • Legal Aspects of Health Info Management
  • E-Healthcare Ethics
  • Managerial Communications

Arizona State University

The Master of Advanced Study in Health Informatics at Arizona State University will provide you with an innovative approach to combine IT, computer science and knowledge management to enhance health outcomes for patients.

Professionals who are coming into this field outside of healthcare will be able to enhance their skills in this field that is developing very rapidly. The core classes will provide you with an excellent background in clinical informatics, and electives will allow you to focus on clinical workflows and advanced, modern health technology.

Graduating from this online, two-year program will give you the skills to develop new information technology, knowledge management, and computer science to assist with disease prevention, efficient and safe patient care delivery and knowledge access.

This program has been designed for those who are working on a full-time basis. It is 100% online and may be taken part or full time.

Required courses include the following:

  • Population Health Management and Analysis
  • Fundamentals of Health Informatics
  • Health Informatics Database Modeling and Applications
  • Workflow Analysis and Redesign in Health Systems Engineering
  • Clinical Decision Support and Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Leadership and Change in Clinical Environments

You do not need to take the GRE exam to be considered for this masters in health informatics program.

Accreditation

Whether you are seeking a bachelor’s or master’s in health informatics, you should ensure that your program has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).

It is important for your health informatics program to be accredited because you and your employer know that you have graduated from a program with a rigorous curriculum in health informatics. This accreditation also ensures that the curriculum of the given degree program is highly relevant to the vital electronic health record environment in health care facilities in the 21st century.

CHIIM has the following master’s degree curriculum requirements for health informatics programs:

  • Information systems curriculums should focus on information systems analysis, design, implementation, leadership and management.
  • Informatics curriculum should study structure, function and transfer of information, and also socio-technical areas of health computing.
  • Information technology curriculum should focus on modern computer networks, databases and systems administration.

Summary

The health informatics field is growing rapidly with the federal mandates on the use of electronic health records. So, if you have an interest in information technology and healthcare, this could be a great fit for your career.

Robert Sanchez
Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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