Health Informatics Degrees
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As healthcare becomes an increasingly important part of the American way of life, so does the importance of keeping healthcare information safe. That’s exactly what a healthcare informatics degree teaches you – how to gather healthcare information, manage different healthcare computer programs, and monitor those records to ensure that they remain secure.
Because the need for healthcare security is expected to increase over the next decade, so is the need for health information technicians (HIT). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the need for these types of specialists will increase by up to 22% by the year 2022, with 200,000 potential job openings created in that same time period.
Not only are these jobs expected to be plentiful, but very high-paying. The average wage of a HIT is $34,000, with the highest-paid making over $81,000 per year.
Although it is possible to get a job as a healthcare informatics worker with just an associate degree, competitive jobs will require a Bachelor’s or M.S. in Healthcare Informatics. Fortunately, there are many reputable programs that are either 100% online or hybrid options, which makes it easy for almost anyone to complete the requirements to pursue this fascinating career track.
Degree & certification Programs
Health informatics is a unique field that offers several levels of educational advancement. Although many students usually earn an associate degree or post-secondary certificate to begin with, the most desirable program is a Bachelor’s of Science in Health Informatics or Information Management. The B.S. degree usually requires a significant internship or practical component, which is necessary to gain the clinical hours in order to be a certified health information technician.
For students who are interested in management or more advanced health information technology specialties, a Master’s Degree program is available from a number of well-known schools. Although this degree program does not always require an internship, it may only be available for students with significant healthcare experience.
- Bowling Green State University (A.A.S) – This program is one of the most cost-effective, with annual tuition just over $10,000 per year. The BGSU Health Information Management Technology program is also completely accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), which means that students who graduate from the program are eligible to be Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT) after taking the national exam. In addition, the 2-year program offers a clinical internship component, which is vital for being employed upon hire.
- University of Central Florida (B.S. in Health Informatics and Information Management) – This program, also accredited by CAHIIM, is a flexible option for students who want to complete a majority of their Healthcare Informatics degree online. Out of the 19 required HIT courses, 13 of them are offered as online courses. In addition, the U.S. News and World Report has named UCF as the third Most Up and Coming School in the nation (2015), partly due to it’s excellent tuition costs – just over $6,300 per year for in-state residents.
- Temple University (B.S. in Health Information Management, M.S. in Health Informatics, Certificate) – Temple University is a very notable school that offers every level of Helath Informatics education. All of their programs are accredited by CAHIIM, with their M.S. program being one of only six CAHIIM-approved programs in the U.S. This school offers a very flexible set of educational options, including a transfer program through many of Philadelphia’s local community colleges. Student satisfaction rating, according to the U.S. News and World Report is a stunning 87.8% (2015).
- Oregon Health and Science University (M.S.) – This CAHIIM-accredited Master’s program offers three distinct specialty tracks, including Clinical Informatics, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, and Health Information Management. It has been named as the third Best Medical School in America, according to the U.S. News and World Report (2015), and in the top 30 for medical research. The internship component is very competitive, and most students find work immediately upon graduation. With enrollment at less than 1000 students each year, this is a highly interactive learning environment with almost a 1:2 student to teacher ratio.
- University of Maryland University College (M.S. in Health Informatics Administration) – With annual tuition just over $6,500, this is an affordable college with a lot of local prestige. In addition to having a 100% acceptance rate for new students, the M.S. program is one of only six in the nation that is accredited by CAHIIM. The program comprises of 36 credits that allow students to gain experience in both Information Science and Health Care Administration. Students must have 3 years professional healthcare experience or information tech in a healthcare setting to apply.
- University of Michigan (M.S. in Health Informatics, Certificate) – The University of Michigan is a highly-ranked school that offers a highly intensive 4-year B.S. degree at an affordable rate. At only $12,496 per semester/term, students pay for excellence in their teachers without breaking the bank. This B.S. program isn’t accredited through CAHIIM, but it is very rigorous, and includes a 400-hour internship at its culmination. They also offer a certificate program, which is an 18-credit program available only to students who are enrolled in a graduate program on the U of M – Ann Arbor campus.
List of Health Informatics Schools
|School||City||State||Website||Total grads (2013)|
|The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston||Houston||Texas||https://www.uth.edu/||35|
|Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis||Indianapolis||Indiana||http://www.iupui.edu||35|
|Duke University||Durham||North Carolina||https://duke.edu/||34|
|SUNY Downstate Medical Center||Brooklyn||New York||http://www.downstate.edu/||21|
|University of Missouri-Columbia||Columbia||Missouri||http://missouri.edu/||19|
|The Community College of Baltimore County||Baltimore||Maryland||http://www.ccbcmd.edu||18|
|Rochester Institute of Technology||Rochester||New York||http://www.rit.edu/||15|
|Lane Community College||Eugene||Oregon||https://www.lanecc.edu/||15|
|University of Utah||Salt Lake City||Utah||http://www.utah.edu||13|
|University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey||Newark||New Jersey||http://www.umdnj.edu/||13|
|University of California-Davis||Davis||California||http://ucdavis.edu/||12|
|University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||Ann Arbor||Michigan||http://umich.edu/||10|
|Mt Hood Community College||Gresham||Oregon||http://www.mhcc.edu||7|
|University of Washington-Seattle Campus||Seattle||Washington||http://www.washington.edu||6|
|Medical College of Wisconsin||Milwaukee||Wisconsin||http://www.mcw.edu/MCW||4|
|Marshall University||Huntington||West Virginia||http://www.marshall.edu/landing/home/index.html||4|
|George Mason University||Fairfax||Virginia||http://www.gmu.edu||3|
|University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee||Milwaukee||Wisconsin||http://www4.uwm.edu/||2|
|Milwaukee School of Engineering||Milwaukee||Wisconsin||http://www.msoe.edu/welcome||1|
|Chemeketa Community College||Salem||Oregon||http://www.chemeketa.edu||1|
|University of San Diego||San Diego||California||http://www.sandiego.edu||1|
|University of Kansas||Lawrence||Kansas||http://www.ku.edu||1|
Hybrid & online programs
The healthcare informatics degree program is one of the most flexible options for students who can’t regularly meet on campus. Since it is a technology-driven degree, there are many options that are 100% online. Still, this depends of the level of education that you require. While many associate’s degrees and post-secondary certificate programs can be completed entirely online, B.S. degree programs and M.S. programs may require a clinical practicum or other internship.
It is also important to note that many 100% online programs (even from very repuatable schools) are not approved by CAHIIM has a list of all online or distance learning programs that are accredited.
- University of Cincinnati (B.S. in Health Information Management, M.S. in Health Informatics) – The University of Cincinnati is well-known for it’s online programs, and the Health Informatics degrees are no exception. Both the undergraduate and graduate programs are completely online, and followed an approved curriculum from CAHIIM. In addition, this is an excellent choice for in-state students, as tuition is only $11,000 per semester. Also, Forbes named the UC campus as one of the most beautiful in America (2015).
- University of Illinois (M.S. in Health Informatics) – The U.S. News and World Report (2015) ranks this is as second-best school in the nation for online B.S. Degrees. In addition, their Public Health, Nursing, and Computer programs are some of the best in the nation. This school is noted for its flexibility, offering both a 100% online degree M.S. option, as well as a hybrid research degree option. This is a CAHIIM-approved program, meaning that graduates are eligible to take the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) exam offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
- University of Wisconsin (B.S. in Health Information Management & Technology) – This college is one of the highest-ranked in the nation – earning a top spot as one of the Top 10 Best Medicine Schools in the U.S. In addition, it ranks close to the top 10 in Computer Systems, Computer Science, and Computer Programming. This program offers two tracks – B.S. in Health Information Management and a B.S. in Health Information Technology. Both courses are 100% online, although they are not accredited by CAHIIM.
- University of California – Davis (Certificate) – Not only is UC-Davis one of the Top 10 Best Public Schools in the nation, but it’s also one of the Top 20 Medical Schools (U.S. News and World Report, 2015). This school offers a 100% online, 20-credit certificate program for both healthcare professionals and those with no healthcare background. Although this program is accredited by the California Board of Registered Nursing, it is not CAHIIM-accredited.
|School||City||State||Website||Total grads (2013)|
|Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore||Maryland||https://www.jhu.edu/||58|
|Northern Kentucky University||Highland Heights||Kentucky||http://www.nku.edu||49|
|Grand Canyon University||Phoenix||Arizona||http://www.gcu.edu||41|
|Western Governors University||Salt Lake City||Utah||http://www.wgu.edu||31|
|Nova Southeastern University||Fort Lauderdale||Florida||http://www.nova.edu||20|
|Montana Tech of the University of Montana||Butte||Montana||http://www.mtech.edu||18|
|Portland Community College||Portland||Oregon||http://www.pcc.edu||13|
|The College of Saint Scholastica||Duluth||Minnesota||http://www.css.edu||12|
|Great Falls College Montana State University||Great Falls||Montana||http://www.gfcmsu.edu||10|
|Highlands College of Montana Tech||Butte||Montana||http://www.mtech.edu/||5|
|American Sentinel University||Aurora||Colorado||http://www.americansentinel.edu||3|
|The University of Findlay||Findlay||Ohio||http://www.findlay.edu/||3|
|National University||La Jolla||California||http://www.nu.edu||2|
|Kent State University at Kent||Kent||Ohio||http://www.kent.edu||1|
|Loyola University Chicago||Chicago||Illinois||http://www.luc.edu||1|
|Southwestern Oregon Community College||Coos Bay||Oregon||http://www.socc.edu||1|
Core & Elective Courses
Besides core curriculum like English, Math, and Science, there are several vital components of each health informatics program. There are also several different tracks that may be available to healthcare informatics specialists, which require unique courses that differ from the general program offerings.
- Health Data Management – In this course, students learn the structure and use of health information, as well as advanced healthcare record management. General topics will be covered, such as electronic health record keeping, documentation guidelines, and regulatory compliance. Basic data collection tools and methodologies will also be discussed.
- Health Information Communication Technology – Students in this course will learn the function of computer systems for healthcare operations. They will also learn medical vocabulary, the infrastructure of the National Healthcare Information System, and compare and contrast different healthcare interface designs.
- Health Information Systems – This course teaches students the many clinical, administrative, and specialty options available to Healthcare Informatics Specialists, including Bioinformatics, Organizational Informatics, and Clinical Informatics. They will also apply data mining concepts and techniques, learn data storage and retrieval strategies, and how to overcome common data security problems.
- Quality Management & Performance Improvement – In this course, students gain advanced understanding of how to apply quality improvement tools and evaluate documentation to ensure that it meets quality standards. This course will also cover risk management for medical information, credentialing, and how to create facility-wide quality assurance programs.
- Capstone & Practicum – For schools that offer a Masters Degree, Certificate, or Bachelor’s Degree Healthcare Informatics degree program, a practicum, capstone, or internship is a vital part of the program requirements. For online programs, this may mean a research paper or a set of replacement courses. For on-campus programs, the practicum element may require up to 400 hours of professional, on-site clinical work.
If you want to get a job as a health informatics specialist, it is not necessary to complete a program that is specifically accredited by any one body. However, most mid-level and top-level positions will be filled by those who have been credentialed by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). In order to receive one of the AHIMA credentials (RHIA or RHIT), students will need to complete a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
CAHIIM accredits all HIM programs – from Associates Degree through Master’s level Certificate programs. The process is very specific for each level, although the targeted main program outcomes are the same. Programs that have been approved by CAHIIM focus on curriculum that appropriately teaches the information systems, social-technical aspects of information-sharing, and the technology involved in managing healthcare information.
In addition to curriculum overview, all approved Healthcare Informatics degree programs must undergo several on-site evaluations to ensure that the educators, curriculum, and technology components are up to national standards. They also ensure that each element of the program will successfully prepare students to sit for the AHIMA exams.
Not only must a college be accredited by CAHIIM, but it must also be accredited by a regional or national accrediting body. Distance education courses must also be accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). Please be aware that there are several online Health Informatics degree programs that are accredited by the DEAC but not CAHIIM. These organizations will not provide you the option to sit for any national certification exams.
The career outlook for healthcare information specialists is good – better than most other fields in the U.S. In fact, healthcare informatics jobs are projected to increase by over 22% by the year 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2012). Between 41,000 and 200,000 new jobs will be created in this field, based on predictions from O*NET (2015) and the BLS.
One of the major reasons for this increased need for healthcare information specialists is due to the rising complexity of caring for and managing medical records. As the healthcare industry gets closer to adopting ICD-10 and increased insurance regulations lead to more specified healthcare information, informatics is becoming a very unwieldy system that requires specialization.
In addition, there will be more need for healthcare services of all kinds over the next decade, mainly due to the rising aging population. The Baby Boomer generation, one of the largest demographics in America, is requiring more and more healthcare services. This means that all healthcare careers will be invaluable over the coming years. Informatics, however, will be more in need, as it will be tasked with keeping the wealth of patient data safe from mistakes, cyber attack, and other potential dangers.
Education is a huge element to the potential earning power of a health informatics degree. Entry-level positions may only require an associate degree, but usually require an additional post-secondary certificate or a bachelor’s degree. The type of degree you receive significantly impacts the earnings you make, with the lowest-earners annual salary at $22,250 and the average at $34,160 (BLS, 2012). Students who go on to complete a post-graduate certificate or Master’s Degree in Healthcare Informatics Administration or Research can potentially make over $81,000 per year (O*NET, 2015). Specialists, such as Bioinformatics Specialists, Public Health Informatics Specialists, and Clinical Informatics Specialists can also expect to see higher-than-average pay.
|Career Facts||Health Informatics|
|Related Careers||Computer and Information Systems Manager, Nursing Information Systems Coordinator|
|Common Job Titles||Clinical Informatics Director, Clinical Informatics Strategist, Clinical Informations Systems Coordinator|
|Technology & Equipment||Medical Imaging Database Systems, Medical Software, Medical Picture Archiving Systems, Computers|
|Sourced from BLS, January 2015|
Licensing & Certification
Although it is not necessary to be licensed or certified to become a healthcare informatics specialist, students who complete certification requirements will be much more competitive in the field. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is the most prestigious and well-known licensing body for healthcare informatics, and they provide students with a standardized test to verify their skills in the field.
The Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam credentials passing students as Registered Health Information Technicians. But, in order to sit for this exam, students must complete a qualifying program from a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Usually, this means at least a 2-year investment towards a healthcare informatics degree, either at a U.S. college or a foreign school who meets the CAHIIM reciprocity agreement.
For students who pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Informatics, there is a higher level of certification available through AHIMA. These students are eligible to sit for the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) exam, which is necessary for top-level management positions. This certification is also only available to programs approved by CAHIIM.