Individuals in the healthcare field wanting to learn about informatics enroll in certificate programs. These programs consist of seven or fewer courses covering the skills needed to create and implement an electronic data system. Many programs are available online. Since most of these programs are tailored to the working healthcare professional, candidates must possess a bachelor's degree and be licensed or certified in their particular field. A statement of purpose and CV are often required.
Bachelor's degree programs cover the fundamentals of healthcare informatics. Students learn to develop and utilize digital databases for various purposes, such as disease prevention or healthcare reimbursement. Most programs require an internship. Some programs require potential students to complete a medical terminology proficiency exam prior to enrolling. Applicants submit high school transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and an admissions essay.
A master's degree program focuses on how data systems work with the healthcare delivery system, and students in these 2-year programs focus on improving various aspects. Candidates study how critical patient information is gathered and managed. Armed with this knowledge, individuals learn how to optimize this process in an attempt to improve the entire healthcare experience, from patient care to billing. Master's-level students need a bachelor's degree in any field, along with GRE scores and letters of recommendation. Supplemental coursework is available for those approaching this field from a non-traditional perspective. A thesis will likely be required.
Certificate in Healthcare Informatics
The majority of programs are designed for working healthcare professionals seeking to expand their knowledge of this emerging field. Coursework consists of the skills and knowledge needed to participate in the design, implementation, and monitoring of electronic medical data systems. Candidates in online programs need a computer and stable, high-speed Internet connection to utilize the various electronic, interactive teaching resources.
The curriculum is comprised of a set of required courses with one or two elective requirements allowing the certificate candidate to focus on their medical discipline. Core courses include:
- Patient care and the Internet
- Electronic records
- Data standards
- Systems analysis and design
- Information literacy
Bachelor's Degree in Healthcare Informatics
Programs are interdisciplinary in nature, meaning they feature courses from a range of academic fields, including health sciences, information science, and organizational behavior. The purpose is to provide a comprehensive knowledge base of electronic medical data systems in the pursuit of improving disease prevention, healthcare reimbursement, and resource allocation.
In addition to a core health informatics curriculum, degree candidates must complete a number of basic courses such as anatomy and physiology, statistics, and calculus. Core course topics include:
- Disease concepts
- Revenue cycle management
- Finance and healthcare
- Healthcare research
- Computer systems and health records
Master's Degree in Healthcare Informatics
Program coursework focuses on the design of medical information systems and the ways in which those systems interface with the clinical medical experience. Interdisciplinary topics covered within the core curriculum include:
- Emerging healthcare technologies
- Informatics design usability
- Genomics and bioinformatics
- Change management
- Database design and security
Popular Career Options
Understanding how healthcare data systems function is essential to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Sample career options for individuals with a healthcare informatics certificate are:
- Medical records assistant
- Information technology professional
- Human resources associate
This graduate degree prepares individuals for a wide range of senior leadership and executive positions in hospitals and other public and private healthcare centers. Below are some healthcare informatics career options for those with a graduate degree:
- Healthcare technology services director
- Medical informatics consultant
- Informatics training officer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for medical and health services managers were expected to increase by 17% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported that the annual median salary for health services and medical managers was $94,500 in 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Certification and Training Information
While not necessarily a requirement for employment, there is an industry-standard certification program available for health information professionals. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers Registered Health Information Administrator certification. The process consists of passing an exam, which leads directly to certification (www.ahima.org).
While a degree from an accredited college or university is a necessary part of securing a healthcare informatics job, substantial on-the-job training is also part of the process. The methods and means of collecting and securing patient healthcare information differ between medical institutions. Potential healthcare informatics professionals should be prepared for a substantial regimen of job training and continuing education.
To find work in healthcare informatics, students will need to complete either a bachelor's or master's degree or a certificate program. On-the-job training is typically a component of a student's education following graduation, with professional certification being a voluntary credential that's available to graduates.