If you have asked yourself, What is healthcare informatics? or Is health informatics a good career choice? – know that you have begun to delve into a field that has a high employment demand and fascinating work. So, if you are wondering if a masters in health information worth it, keep reading to learn the essential aspects of this degree and the occupations for which it prepares you.
What is Healthcare Informatics?
Although its definition varies depending on who you ask, most people agree that Health informatics is a multidisciplinary field that is best described as the intersection of these topics –
- Information Science
- Computer Science
- Data Informatics
- Decision Support Systems
- International Healthcare Systems
- Global Health Informatics
- Home Care
- Information Security
- Data Privacy
- Artificial Intelligence
From a practical or more detailed perspective, What does health informatics as a sub-specialty seek to do?
The field of health informatics seeks to fully integrate the noted subjects with regard to methodologies, resources, and the development of practical devices.
What is a Healthcare Informatics Professional’s Main Objective?
Those who are involved in the health informatics field seek to optimize the gathering, storage, access, retrieval, and use of data and information in the fields of health, medicine, and biomedicine. The ultimate goal is to utilize enormous amounts of data to solve challenging real-world issues related to the delivery of medical care across the globe.
Is a Health Informatics Master’s Degree Worth It?
Yes, when you have found the answer to the question – What is healthcare informatics? – it will become quite evident that a graduate degree in health informatics is a great career choice – especially for those who want to contribute to the healthcare field without becoming a practitioner.
In 2021, more than 480,000 medical and health service managers were working in the United States. The anticipated job growth over the next decade is 18% – which is remarkably faster than the average of all other U.S. occupations for the same timeframe.
More than 500,000 computer & information analysts worked in the U.S. in 2021. The anticipated job growth over the next decade for this healthcare informatics-related occupation is 16% – which is much faster than average.
Why Should I Get My Health Informatics Master’s Online?
Health informatics offers a promising career path because a graduate degree in healthcare informatics opens up options across several interrelated sectors. This career pathway is an ideal way for you to contribute in a medically-related way without becoming a more traditional medical worker – like a nurse, doctor, or medical technician.
Most health or healthcare informatics managers enter the field with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in health informatics or a closely-related field. However, professionals in the health informatics field often choose to complete a master’s degree – which is offered on-campus or online – allowing for maximum scheduling flexibility. While most master’s degree programs in health informatics take about two years to complete, there are some schools that offer accelerated pathways that allow you to attain the degree in less time.
Types of Degrees and Specializations in Health Informatics
Health Informatics, as an academic discipline, is typically offered at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, with doctoral programs available in specialty areas that include healthcare policy or health services finance, among others.
What Will I Learn in a Health Informatics Master’s Program?
Master’s degree programs in health informatics focus on teaching degree candidates how to use information technology and data to improve healthcare systems and overall outcomes.
Over the course of one to two years – depending on the program and school, health informatics students will learn how to apply technological and computerized resources and devices to store and retrieve accurate medical information and data.
Health informatics is a field in which students learn how to design and implement new innovative technology and applications with the ultimate goal of improving the delivery of health care – from hospitals that serve communities to large healthcare organizations with a global reach. The most common areas of focus will include the following –
- Evidence-Based Medicine.
- Disease Management.
- Complex Medical Decisions.
- Population Health Management.
Established laws and standards, such as those found in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), include specific security and compliance provisions for the workers and records within the healthcare sector. The continuous and tremendous advancement of technology across the varying fields of medicine, coupled with the need to maintain sensitive data confidentially, creates the need for undergraduate and graduate programs that offer training in healthcare informatics. On-campus and online graduate health certificates are other options for professionals.
Specializations in Healthcare Informatics
Depending on the school offering the graduate program, some available academic concentrations may include a variety of sub-specialties –
- Health Administration.
The health administration specialization for health informatics master’s degree holders is for those who wish to have a managerial or administrative career in healthcare information and technology. Potential sectors for those with this health administration specialization include insurance, government and technology firms, healthcare organizations, and consulting.
- Health Technology.
Health information technology is likely considered one of the fastest-growing academic concentrations for those earning health informatics degrees. Health technology professionals work with data and technical systems as developers, project managers, or information coordinators.
- Clinical Informatics.
Professionals involved in clinical informatics are responsible for the integration of IT, clinical research, and patient care – to improve healthcare services and overall health service outcomes. Depending on a professional’s particular skill set, a clinical informatics specialist may design and implement health systems that support clinical decisions using metrics, analytics, and data to ultimately provide the best possible patient care.
Nurses with clinical experience are especially adept and in high demand in the informatics field due to their tremendous experience working with EHRs – electronic health records.
- Public Health.
Degree candidates who are interested in working in community or even global health settings may find a public health informatics specialty a great fit for their desired career goals. A public health specialist uses technology and data to help educate the public about essential issues. Qualified public health experts and professionals are in high demand, especially considering the identification of new diseases and the continuous controversies over immunizations.
- Imaging Informatics.
Medical imaging informatics refers to the specific biomedical information branch of informatics. Imaging Informatics is the actual interface of people with information technology. Biomedical informatics specialists are responsible for collecting/analyzing/communicating essential patient information to be used to care for patients and improve healthcare systems.
- Cyber Security & Privacy in Healthcare.
Cyber security and privacy in healthcare refers to the protection of information that is essential for medical and healthcare organizations to function properly and within legal limits. Health care organizations rely on more than one integrated system for their operations to run smoothly. For example, the integration would include clinical decisions, e-prescribing, EHR, radiology IT, and computerized practice management systems, to name a few.
Careers and Salary
Healthcare informatics is a subspecialty of several larger occupational categories, so the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track it as a separate and distinct category. It is best to review data for similar occupations to understand the potential career path for healthcare informatics degree holders.
Computer and Information Systems Managers, as a BLS occupational category, offers a glimpse into a similar occupation that had a 2021 median pay of $159,010 per year. This yearly salary translates to $76.45 per hour. The following data represents the salary percentiles for computer and information systems managers for 2021 –
|Medical and Health Services Manager Salary|
|10%||$ 95,220 per year|
|25%||$ 122,820 per year|
|Median – 50%||$ 159,010 per year|
|75%||$198,750 per year|
The states that offer the top salaries for computer and information systems managers include –
|State||Medical and Health Services Manager Salary|
|New York||$ 195,900 per year|
|California||$ 193,500 per year|
|New Jersey||$ 189,540 per year|
|Washington||$ 178,130 per year|
|District of Columbia||$ 176,000 per year|
Medical And Health Services Managers is a similar occupation to that of health informatics. Medical and Health Service Managers had a 2021 median pay of $101,340 per year, which translates to $48.72 per hour. The following data represent the medical and health services managers’ salary percentile data for 2021 –
|Medical and Health Services Managers’ Salary|
|10%||$ 60,780 per year|
|25%||$ 77,750 per year|
|Median – 50%||$ 101,340 per year|
|75%||$135,750 per year|
|90%||$205,620 per year|
The states that offer the top salaries for medical and health services managers include –
|State||Medical and Health Services Managers’ Salary|
|New York||$ 155,430 per year|
|District of Columbia||$ 151,370 per year|
|Massachusetts||$ 140,270 per year|
|Washington||$ 128,580 per year|
|New Jersey||$ 136,580 per year|
Do I Need a Master’s Degree in Health Informatics?
While no one can argue the modern healthcare system has arrived in full force, the reality is that data processing, security, and computing power continue to evolve and improve exponentially, even in the modern medical landscape. As a result, the future of health informatics will likely continue to evolve and advance through technological improvements, with new opportunities developing as the field expands its capabilities.
Choosing to earn an online health informatics master’s degree is a great way to stay current in the field and stand out among the competition.
What Can I Do with a Master’s Degree in Health Informatics?
Because the health informatics field is diverse and growing, the demand for professionals has been fueled by the industry’s ever-increasing focus on data security, evidence-based medicine, and overall delivery improvements.
The future of health informatics is likely to continue to adapt with regard to artificial intelligence, big data, and data security standards. Specialists in this field will contribute to designing and creating telemedicine applications, biostatistics/ethics guidelines, and medical decision-support systems, to name a few.
Choosing the Best Program for Me
Deciding on the graduate degree program that will meet career and education goals is an important decision that can change (or accelerate) any career trajectory. But with all the options now available in the modern education world, how does someone decide which program will meet your goals?
Consider the following aspects of your education and program options –
Admission to a master’s degree program typically requires students to hold a bachelor’s degree in healthcare informatics or a related field from an accredited institution of higher education. Although, it is noted that each school will establish the specific criteria associated with their graduate degree in health informatics’ admission criteria, so if you are interested, it pays to research the program thoroughly.
Accreditation is the most direct way to determine if a potential health informatics program/school will meet your defined career/education objectives. The process of accreditation refers to professional oversight of schools or programs based on defined standards established by the accreditation agency or an industry panel of experts.
There are two kinds of academic accreditation in the United States – regional and specialized.
- Regional accreditation refers to overseeing non-profit/state-owned colleges or universities. In the United States, there are six federally run agencies across the country that accredit higher learning institutions. Regional accreditation is administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s CHEA.
- Specialized accreditation, which is also known as programmatic accreditation, is the oversight process of specific programs in accordance with industry-set standards. Each industry tends to have one or more professional accreditation or oversight agencies/organizations.
The CAHIIM – The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics & Information Management Education
The CAHIM, or the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics & Information Management Education, is a non-profit professional agency responsible for the accreditation health informatics and related academic programs. The organization is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Founded in 1928, the CAHIIM began as a way to improve the integrity and consistency of patient records. The accrediting agency notes that they have accredited more than 300 programs in 46 states and Puerto Rico.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
There are a wide variety of financial aid and scholarship opportunities for students and working learners interested in a health informatics master’s degree. These are often offered by schools, professional organizations, as well as industry leaders and organizations across the nation. Each program offers different choices and opportunities, so students are encouraged to review this information carefully for their preferred schools and programs.
Certifications and Licensure
The need for certification varies, depending on where you want to work and the job you hope to secure. But because of the relative newness of the field, many health informatics employers are still trying to determine and define specific skill sets for certain health informatics specialties.
The options for certifications in the health informatics field include those offered by –
Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society – HIMSS.
- The CAHIMS – Certified Associate in Healthcare Information & Management Systems –– is a two-hour test that has 115 multiple-choice questions – applicants must hold a high school diploma or an equivalent.
- The CPHIMS – Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems -– is a two-hour test that has 115 multiple-choice questions – applicants must hold a baccalaureate degree and either have a graduate degree with three years of related experience or five years of IT managerial experience.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center – ANNC – is ideal for those who currently or wish to practice in the field of nursing informatics –
- The Registered Nurse Board Certified – RN-BC is a computerized test with 175 questions.
The American Health Information Management Association– AHIMA this certification is designed specifically for those professionals with an interest in managing, analyzing, and administering patient information through computer systems.
- The Registered Health Information Administrator – RHIA – is a four-hour test with 180 multiple-choice questions. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree or master’s level from a CAHIIM-accredited school.
The American Medical Informatics Association – AMIA – this certification program addresses the needs created by every expanding role of those working in the health informatics industry.
- The American Medical Informatics Association’s Health Informatics Certification – AHIC – this exam assesses the competence of professionals in the health informatics field whose work and decisions may impact the organization’s performance or affect public safety. As such, the American Medical Informatics Association certification program emphasizes operational instead of research-based informatics.
For students interested in a career in health informatics, College Consensus presents the representative programs below. These programs have not been ranked, but they meet standards of accreditation and reputability.
Arizona State University
Arizona State University (ASU Online) offers a Master of Advanced Study degree (MAS) in Health Informatics that requires the completion of 10 classes or 30 graduate credit hours. Sample coursework for one of the nation’s best online health informatics programs includes health information communication, health economics & policy, clinical decision support/evidence-based medicine, and leadership and professionalism, to name a few.
Florida International University
Florida International University (FIU Online) offers a Master of Science degree (MS) in Health Informatics & Analytics that is recognized to be among the Sunshine State’s best online health informatics programs. This 16-month program from Florida International University offers a unique and integrated curriculum and has received CAHIM accreditation. The program starts each fall session and includes real-time online classes. FIU’s online health informatics master’s degree has an impressive 95% retention rate.
Johns Hopkins University
The School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University (JH Online) offers a Master of Science degree (MS) in Applied Health Sciences Informatics that can be completed in 15 to 36 months, depending on the student’s time availability. Degree candidates must complete 60 quarter credits, including mandatory ethics training and an eight-credit capstone. Classes for one of the nation’s best online health informatics programs include applied clinical informatics and database querying in health, among others.
Regis University (Regis at a Distance) offers a Master of Science degree (MS) in Health Informatics, ranked among the Midwest’s best online health informatics programs. Regis’s online master’s in health informatics is delivered in eight-week classes and can be completed in one to two years. The program offers five start dates throughout the year. Core classes include information systems, healthcare information & information, and IT Research, among others.
Rutgers University’s School of Health Professions (RU Online) offers a Master of Science degree (MS) in Health Informatics that can be completed as a full-time or part-time student – all online. Sample classes for Rutgers University’s best online health informatics programs include SAS applications in health informatics, data science programming, and health finance systems, to name a few. The School of Health Professions offers a limited amount of scholarships for this program.
Stanford University (Stanford Online) offers an interdisciplinary Master of Science degree (MS) in Biomedical Informatics that ranks among the best online health informatics programs in California and beyond. Classes for Stanford University’s master’s in health informatics include biomedical data science, modeling biomedical systems, health and medical care economics, and precision practice with big data, to name a few. On average, students complete this program in 3.5 years but have five years to finish this master’s degree program.
UMass Lowell (Lowell Online) offers a Master of Science degree (MS) in Health Informatics that can be completed 100% online as a full-time or part-time student. Students enrolled in this UMass Lowell’s best online health informatics programs are offered two academic concentrations – health informatics or health service management. This UMass graduate degree requires candidates to complete 12 classes for a total of 36 graduate credits. Sample classes include health policy, project management, and inequalities in health.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Alabama’s Health Profession School (UA Birmingham) offers a Master of Science degree (MS) in Health Informatics that can be completed in as few as 24 months. UA’s best online health informatics programs offer several academic tracks – data analytics, user experience, clinical and administrative systems, and research. Core classes include health informatics and healthcare delivery and analysis/design of health information systems.
The University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida’s College of Community Innovation & Education (Central Florida Distance Ed) offers a Master of Science degree (MS) in Healthcare Informatics, among Florida’s best online health informatics programs. This online graduate degree from UCF requires 38 academic credits, with classes delivered in 16-week terms. In addition, this CAHIM-accredited degree requires students to complete an internship and capstone course to meet requirements. Sample classes for this degree include health care database and systems and
The University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati Online) offers a Master of Health Informatics degree program that requires degree candidates to complete 33 graduate credits – all online. UC is an HIMSS-approved education partner, and its graduate degree has been ranked among the best online health informatics programs. Applicants to this program do not need to submit a GRE or GMAT score for admission.
Professional Organizations in Health Informatics
Health informatics is no longer an emerging field but a career choice with great growth potential. Professional organizations offer healthcare professionals in the field the resources and opportunities to assist in career development and growth.
American Medical Informatics Association
The American Medical Informatics Assoc. is one of the nation’s largest and most active professional organizations. The American Medical Informatics Assoc.’s members are healthcare professionals who have a large variety of occupations and roles within the healthcare industry.
American Health Information Management Association.
The AHIMA is an industry professional organization dedicated to those who work in health informatics management across the health and education sectors. According to the AHIMA, their membership totals more than 100,000.
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
As a member of the HIMSS, you have opportunities and resources across access to a vast health information network. The Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society is well-known for its strong promotion of industry and professional practices that help to improve patient outcomes.
National Institutes of Health Informatics
The National Institutes of Health Informatics is a professional organization offering tremendous resources to members and health informatics professionals. The National Institutes of Health Informatics offers membership options to educators and students health informatics professionals.
American Nursing Informatics Association
The ANIA, which is dedicated to the specific nursing specialty of informatics, offers its members great benefits and opportunities to connect with other professionals. The resources from the American Nursing Informatics Association can be used to help forward your health informatics career through the provision of education and training options.