Health Informatics Degrees
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There are many ways that the advancement of technology impacts the ability of healthcare providers to diagnose and treat patients. New medical devices can help to monitor symptoms, cutting-edge techniques can offer relief to patients who were once unable to find it, and the data that healthcare providers collect can help to improve the delivery of healthcare to all.
A degree in health informatics teaches students how best to collect, store, retrieve, and analyze complex health data in order to improve patient outcomes and advocate for the best possible treatment protocols.
Because healthcare providers are collecting an increasing amount of data from year to year, the need for health informatics professionals is expected to increase over the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) collects details on the health information technician profession (HIT), which correlates closely to those with health informatics degrees. According to the BLS, the need for these types of specialists will increase by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026, adding nearly 28,000 new jobs.
Although it is possible to get an entry-level job in the healthcare informatics field with just an associate degree, the most competitive and best-paying positions will require a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Fortunately, there are many reputable programs available to interested applicants. Both on-campus and online course delivery are available, making it possible for anyone who is dedicated to learning to earn their degree and start towards a career in this growing field.
Degree & certification Programs
George Mason University
HealthInformatics@GW - The George Washington University
Rasmussen College - Online
Southern New Hampshire University
St. Joseph's University
Evaluating health informatics programs can be a challenge because many programs have similar names. Most commonly, health informatics programs are offered at the bachelor of science (BS) and master of science (MS) level. Nursing informatics is also a commonly offered degree available to those who have already been licensed as registered nurses (RNs). Associate degree programs with similar curriculum but not the same depth as health informatics programs are typically described as health information management (HIM) or health information technology degrees. While these associate-level programs can certainly lead to fulfilling careers, they do not constitute an education in health informatics, as such. Applicants should also be advised that a BS in health informatics 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 type of degree program does not always require an internship, it may only be available for students with significant healthcare experience. Following is a selection of on-campus health informatics programs available to students in the US.
- University of Central Florida (BS in Health Informatics and Information Management) – The University of Central Florida, located in Orlando, has earned accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). This BS program is a flexible option for students who want to complete a majority of their 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 in the top 20 for online programs, meaning delivery and engagement in are effective (2018).
- Temple University (MS in Health Informatics) – Temple University, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a very notable school that offers thorough training in health information management as well as health informatics. The master of science (MS) program at Temple is 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.
- Oregon Health and Science University (Graduate Certificate, MS, PhD in Clinical Informatics) – At Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, applicants can choose from three graduate-level informatics programs. The OHSU CAHIIM-accredited master’s program offers three distinct specialty tracks, including clinical informatics, bioinformatics and computational biology, and health information management. The informatics programs at this school were designed to meet the needs of both healthcare professionals who want further training in informatics and non-healthcare professionals who want to pursue a deeper understanding of how information technology impacts healthcare delivery.
- University of Michigan (MS, Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics) – The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is a highly-ranked school that offers a two-year, 52-credit master in health informatics (MHI) program. This MHI program includes an intensive internship portion that gives students the ability to see health informatics in use and apply what they have learned in real-world scenarios. Students enrolled in another graduate program are also able to complete an 18-credit graduate certificate in health informatics concurrent with their master’s program.
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
George Mason University
HealthInformatics@GW - The George Washington University
Southern New Hampshire University
St. Joseph's University
University of Scranton
Since health informatics is a technology-driven degree, there are many options for students that are offered entirely online. The availability of online and hybrid programs depends on the level of education being pursued with master’s level programs being much more common in the online or hybrid format. Below is a selection of health informatics programs that have been accredited by the CAHIIM, which may be required for certain certifications.
The CAHIIM program directory has a list of all online learning programs that are accredited.
- University of Maryland University College (MS in Health Informatics Administration) – With annual tuition just over $659 per credit for out-of-state students and $458 for Maryland residents, the University of Maryland University Colege is an affordable option with local prestige. 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 Illinois at Chicago (MS in Health Informatics) – The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) 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 percent online MS 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).
- Louisiana Tech University (MS in Health Informatics) – Louisiana Tech University offers an online master of science in health informatics degree through its college of applied and natural sciences. Although the school notes that admission is competitive, the GRE is not required for this program. To apply, students should have completed a bachelor’s degree in health information management or a related field.
- University of Mississippi Medical Center (BS in Health Informatics and Information Management) – The University of Mississippi Medical Centers offers online delivery for two bachelor’s-level programs. The traditional program allows students new to the health informatics field to earn a bachelor’s degree online while the progression program is designed for those who already hold the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential. Both programs feature online coursework and have been accredited by the CAHIIM.
|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||https://www.socc.edu||1|
Core & Elective Courses
Besides core courses like English, math, and science, there are several vital components of each health informatics program.
- Health data management – In this course, students learn the structure and use of health information, as well as advanced healthcare record management. Topics that may be be covered include 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 as well as medical vocabular and the infrastructure of the National Healthcare Information System.
- 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. Students will apply data mining concepts and techniques, learn data storage and retrieval strategies, and learn how to overcome common data security problems.
- Quality management & performance improvement – In this course, students gain an 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 or practicum – A practicum, capstone, or internship is a vital part of many program requirements. For online programs, this may mean a research paper or a set of replacement courses while for on-campus programs, the practicum element may require up to 400 hours of professional, on-site clinical work.
To obtain 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 the AHIMA credential of Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) or Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), students will need to complete a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
CAHIIM accredits both health information manager (HIM) and health informatics programs, including undergradaute and graduate-level programs. The process is specific to each level of education, 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 health informatics degree programs must undergo several on-site evaluations to ensure that the educators, curriculum, and technology components are up to national standards. The CAHIIM also ensures 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 should be accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). On-campus programs may be accredited by a number of organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission. Please be aware that there are several online health informatics degree programs that are accredited by the DEAC but not CAHIIM. These organizations will render graduates eligible 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 13 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017).
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.
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 earned significantly impacts the earnings a professional in this field can make, with the lowest-earners annual salary at $25,810 and the average at $42,820 (BLS 2017). Students who go on to complete a post-graduate certificate or Master’s Degree in Healthcare Informatics Administration or Research can potentially earn even more. 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, June 2018|
Licensing & Certification
Although it is not strictly required 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 demonstrate their mastery of the field.
The Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential requires that students pass an exam to earn the designation of Registered Health Information Technician. 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 US 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 those who have completed programs approved by CAHIIM.