An associate degree program in health information systems, also known as health informatics, centers on classification and coding systems, and prepares aspiring technicians for a professional certification. Students of bachelor's degree programs learn to evaluate and organize healthcare data; they also complete an internship. Master's degree programs emphasize research and advanced coursework to prepare students for leadership positions.
Entrance into an associate or bachelor's degree program requires a high school diploma or GED, along with math and English courses. Students wishing to enter a master's degree program should hold a bachelor's degree and submit GMAT or GRE scores. Some schools offer online programs.
Associate Degree in Health Information Systems
Health informatics is an area where individuals are involved in non-clinical healthcare, and thus includes coursework covering computer information systems, information science, and educational technology. Many programs require the approval of an academic advisor prior to admission.
Programs require students to complete between 60 and 69 credit hours. Required major courses include:
- Analysis and design of software systems
- Clinical classification and coding systems
- Data communications and management principles
- Delivery systems in healthcare, ethics, and health laws
- Medical terminology and methods of reimbursement
- Structure and content of health data
Bachelor's Degree in Health Information Systems
A bachelor's degree program builds on an associate degree in health information systems technology. Graduates of bachelor's programs are qualified for entry-level administrator jobs in health information. Degrees are earned through daytime, evening, or online classes.
In addition to general education requirements, bachelor's degree programs require students to compete between 54-77 credit hours in health information systems. Courses specific to this program include:
- Advanced computer databases and internship
- Biostatistics and concepts of disease for managers
- Health care research and quality assurance
- Health information management theory of organization and research methods
- Leadership and professionalism
- Managing health information centers and strategic organization
Master's Degree in Health Information Systems
Master's degree programs in health information systems are designed for people with degrees in other fields, but with healthcare experience. A master's degree program focuses on research, and computer courses cover more advanced material.
Coursework is divided into three areas: management, computer, and healthcare. Required courses include:
- Creating and using medical knowledge
- Health systems lab and informatics systems
- Introductory bioinformatics and genomics
- Networking applications and security
- Redesigning processes and clinical workflow
- Upcoming healthcare technologies and statistics
Popular Career Options
Baccalaureate graduates are in a position to look for entry-level management jobs. Some of these jobs include:
- Clinical records manager
- Director of health information services
- Health information systems manager
- Insurance claims analyst
- Quality improvement analyst
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 11% increase in medical records and health information technician jobs between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The highest level of employment for this profession is found in hospitals, while other opportunities are available in physicians' offices, outpatient care facilities, and nursing homes. The median wage for these jobs as of May 2018 was $40,350 (www.bls.gov).
Graduates with a master's degree often earn promotional and advancement opportunities within a hospital or clinic. Job titles are available as a chief information officer and clinical informatics specialist. Individuals in these positions oversee the information technology within a healthcare facility. According to Payscale.com, as of September 2019, chief information officers made a median of $150,000 per year, while clinical informatics specialists earned a median of $77,000 per year.
As most employers prefer employees with certification, graduates of associate degree programs may elect to pursue the registered health information technicians (RHIT) certification from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Biannual recertification requires 20 hours of continuing education, which may be earned through AHIMA or other approved programs.
Students who have graduated with a bachelor's degree in health information systems may take the registered health information administrator (RHIA) exam. Like the RHIT, this is available from AHIMA and requires 20 continuing education hours for biannual recertification.
Graduates who wish to further study in the field may choose a graduate certificate program in health informatics management and exchange, health information systems, or health informatics.
Although there are only a few doctoral programs in health information systems, they may be enticing to individuals who hold a master's degree. The Ph.D. programs are heavy into research and academics.
Another continuing education choice is to keep up with new technology in health informatics through membership in one or more professional associations, such as AHIMA, American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA), or American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
Health information systems degrees coupled with professional certifications can lead to entry-level technician jobs or positions as informatics specialists and managers, depending on whether students earn an associate, bachelor's or master's degree. Graduates of health information systems programs may find work in many healthcare settings, such as physicians' offices and hospitals.