For individuals interested in a career in health information management, there are several online degree program options. We will discuss some important considerations when selecting a program, like program requirements, accreditation and certification information, and whether the program is offered entirely online.
How to Select an Online Health Information Management Program
Jobs in health information management have become increasingly crucial to the healthcare industry, due to complex standards and regulations for the storage and retrieval of health records. Health information managers seek to understand, develop and implement systems that help healthcare institutions comply with a variety of records-keeping standards. Many online degree programs are available at the bachelor's and master's levels through a number of universities and online colleges.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that all health information managers must be graduates of an accredited program (www.bls.gov). Health information management programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIME). When choosing a school, students should be aware that programs not accredited by CAHIIME may be less favorable to prospective employers.
In addition to a degree, many information management workers in the healthcare field seek the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Some online programs offer a progressive learning option that prepares students for passage of the RHIA exam.
Some schools only offer the core health information management curriculum online, without making required general education courses or electives available by distance learning. In these instances, students may be expected to complete as many as two years' worth of credits in an on-campus environment, enrolling in the online school only to complete the program's core courses.
Some programs require that applicants already hold an associate's degree with transferable general education courses to fulfill the non-health information-specific component of their studies. When choosing a curriculum, students seeking a fully online program should ensure that all credits are available online and that the program suits their prior education level.
List of Online Health Information Management Programs
Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management
A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for entry into the field of health information management. Most online programs deliver their coursework and exams on the same schedule as on-campus programs, in order to foster cohesive online communication with other students and professors. Delivery typically occurs through a combination of email, online forums and regular online chat sessions. Health information-specific lessons are supplemented by a general science curriculum covering:
- Healthcare delivery legal aspects
- Health data management
- Reimbursement systems
- Health information systems
Master of Science in Health Information Management
Master's degree programs in health information management typically cater to working health professionals who wish to change careers or enter management. A master's degree may also be the minimum credential necessary for employment at large or highly competitive institutions. Online programs are commonly delivered as a general business or technology degree, with an option to specialize in health information management. Topics include:
- Data analysis
- Clinical terminologies
- Implementation of healthcare information systems
- Healthcare statistics
Schools with Online Health Information Management Programs
The University of Cincinnati offers an online Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management program that requires no campus visits. This program can be completed in as few as six semesters and is designed to prepare students to take the Registered Health Information Administer examination. In order to qualify for admission, applicants must already possess an associate's degree in health information management and be RHIT certified or at least RHIT eligible and take the exam within 6 months.
The University of Illinois - Chicago also offers an online Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management program. This program is available entirely online and also prepares students for the RHIA exam at the end of the program. UIC also offers an online Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) degree, which is typically completed in 2-2.5 years. Beyond the traditional MSHI degree, the school also offers a research track that requires students to also complete a thesis. Students should possess a bachelor's degree when applying to this program, though GRE results are not required.
East Carolina University also offers an online Master of Science in Health Informatics and Information Management program. To qualify for this program, students must have at least a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0, as well as at least grades of a ''C'' in computer programming and statistics courses. The GRE or GMAT is required for admission, along with letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. For full time students, this program can be completed in 2-2.5 years and all students must complete the degree within 6 years.
To summarize, students interested in the health information management field can complete online bachelor's and master's degree programs. Students may want to consider various program admission requirements, as well as accreditation information and how quickly they can complete the program.