Numerous colleges and universities offer fully online undergraduate and graduate programs in the health information technology field. These may lead to a certificate or an associate's, bachelor's, or master's degree in health information systems or health information technology. This field involves the management and organization of data, knowledge and communication for the health care industry. Graduates may find work in medical facilities, private practices and major hospitals.
The curriculum for online programs in health information technology generally includes the same training courses taken by on-campus students. Classmates stay connected with one another and their professors by virtual means, like e-mail, chat rooms and message boards. Students complete both assignments and exams via the Web, which requires a reliable computer and Internet connection. While many programs are offered entirely online, there are also hybrid programs that combine distance learning with on-site training. In some programs, students are required to complete internships and clinical rotations prior to graduation.
Many positions in health information technology require a minimum of an associate's degree; however, educational programs are available at a non-degree level. Certificate programs typically consist of 15-30 credit hours and are often designed for working professionals. Graduates can transition into health information technology fields or further their education through related degree programs.
Certificate programs often include a foundational course in health informatics, which is designed to introduce students to the basics of the field. Additional training courses may include the following:
- Information technology for biomedicine
- Introduction to health data and health records
- Advanced issues in health care informatics
- Health care interface design
Associate's Degree in Health Information Technology
Many employers consider an associate's degree the minimum requirement for entry-level health information technology positions. Most programs award an Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology. Both on-campus and online associate's degree programs train students in subjects like medical terminology, diagnostic coding and introductory computer applications.
In addition to taking required general education courses, health information technology students take computer basics, anatomy and physiology. Some online programs require in-person attendance for internships or clinical practica. Courses like the following may also be required:
- Data management
- Introduction to statistics
- Ethics and legal issues
Bachelor's Degree in Health Information Systems or Technology
Health information technology students typically earn a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Systems or Bachelor of Science in Health Information Technology. Most online health information technology programs at the bachelor's level include classes taught by the same faculty members who teach on-campus. Through an online or on-campus program, students learn to design, develop and manage health care information systems by taking courses in coding, reimbursement and quality management.
In addition to courses designed to introduce them to health information technology, students take general education classes. The following courses are typically considered core requirements for health information technology students:
- Medical Terminology
- Medical coding
- Data management
- Legal issues in health care
Master's Degree in Information Technology - Health Information Technology Emphasis
Many graduate-level programs in this field offer a degree in information technology with a specialization in health information technology. Topics covered include databases, system security and strategic analysis. Most programs require 48-60 credit hours to graduate. Many also include a thesis or capstone requirement.
Students usually take general information technology courses, in addition to courses on health care-related information technology issues. Common classes might include the following:
- System security for health care environments
- Databases for health care environments
- Current trends in information technology
- Theory and practice of system development
Despite the fact that they offer coursework online, distance learning certificate and degree programs in health information technology are similar to on-campus programs. Certificates provide a focused overview of the field, associate's and bachelor's program combine introductory coursework with general education classes and master's degree programs provide more advanced, specialized coursework.