If you have a passion for healthcare and technology, a career in health informatics might be the perfect fit for you. Here’s a comprehensive overview of health informatics education, including different degree options, potential career paths, and additional certifications you can pursue.
Health informatics combines healthcare, information technology, and data analysis to improve patient care, enhance healthcare outcomes, and optimize healthcare systems. In layman’s terms, it involves the application of technology and information management principles to collect, store, organize, and analyze health-related data.
Health informatics uses various tools and systems to acquire, store, transmit, and retrieve health information. These tools include electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchanges (HIEs), clinical decision support systems, telemedicine platforms, and more.
A degree in healthcare informatics, health information management or any healthcare related field can help you pursue a career in healthcare IT. You may also benefit by enrolling yourself in non-medical courses, such as computer science and information technology.
If you’re in high school, classes such as chemistry, biology, communication and writing, computer science, and math and statistics will help you get a strong foundation for health informatics.
You can pursue a health informatics degree at several levels from associates and bachelor’s to master’s and post-graduate. A degree in health informatics may be often referred to as “health information technology” as it binds curriculum from public health, medicine, and information technology to produce an integrated program.
Associate in Health Information Technology
An Associate in Health Information Technology is a two-year degree program that provides you with foundational knowledge and skills needed to work in health information management and healthcare technology. It focuses on the collection, storage, analysis, and protection of patient health information.
The prerequisites typically include a high school diploma or equivalent. Some programs may have additional requirements, such as placement tests or prerequisite courses in areas like anatomy, physiology, or computer science.
The curriculum typically covers courses in health information management, medical coding and billing, healthcare laws and regulations, medical terminology, electronic health records (EHR) systems, data analysis, and healthcare ethics.
You can pursue entry-level positions in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, or insurance companies. Job roles may include health information technician, medical coder, medical records clerk, or EHR specialist.
Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management
A Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management is a four-year undergraduate program that prepares you for managerial roles in health information management. It combines courses in health sciences, information systems, and healthcare administration.
Prerequisites typically include a high school diploma or equivalent. Some programs may require specific high school coursework or a minimum GPA. Additionally, completion of prerequisite courses, such as anatomy, physiology, or statistics may be required.
The curriculum covers a broad range of topics, including health information management principles, medical coding, healthcare ethics and regulations, data analysis and management, health informatics systems, leadership and management in healthcare, and legal issues in healthcare.
You can pursue various roles in health information management, such as health information manager, data analyst, clinical documentation specialist, health privacy officer, or compliance officer.
Masters of Science in Health Informatics
A Master of Science in Health Informatics is a graduate-level program that covers data analysis, and healthcare technology management. It prepares you for leadership roles in healthcare organizations, research institutions, or consulting firms.
Prerequisites for a Master of Science in Health Informatics typically include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Some programs may require prior coursework or experience in health sciences, computer science, or a related field. Additionally, satisfactory scores on standardized tests like the GRE may also be expected.
The curriculum typically includes advanced coursework in health informatics, health data analytics, healthcare systems and technology, clinical decision support systems, healthcare policy and ethics, information security and privacy, project management, and leadership in health informatics.
Specializations can include areas like health data analytics, health information exchange, clinical informatics, or healthcare technology management.
You can pursue leadership and management roles in healthcare organizations, research institutions, government agencies, or consulting firms. You may work as health informatics manager, data analyst, health IT consultant, clinical informatics specialist, or research informatician.
Health informatics degree programs (online + in-person) are accredited by:
- The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM)
- The National Cancer Registrars Association accredits programs in cancer registry management.
By enrolling in an accredited master’s program, you make sure you receive quality education, credibility and you become eligible for further professional certifications.
Most certifications require you to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in health informatics or related fields. So get your degree and then prioritize certifications as employers prefer certified professionals to work in a healthcare setting, or they may expect you to earn certification after being hired. Here are some options for you to explore:
- The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers:
- Certified Coding Associate + Specialist (CCA + CCS)
- Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)
- Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA)
- Certified Documentation Integrity Practitioner (CDIP)
- Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA)
- Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS)
- The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society offers:
- The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) offers
- Certified EHR Implementation Specialist (CEIS)
- Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) for cancer registrars.
Health informatics offers a range of exciting and fulfilling career opportunities. The average salary for someone working in health informatics is $89,250. However, your salary will depend on your education, job location, experience, and area of specialization.
You can pursue your bachelor’s and master’s in health informatics and related degrees, and even earn your certifications to work in any of the below promising career options detailed for you:
Some common degrees you can choose to pursue in health informatics:
- Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics and Health Information Management
- Bachelor of Science in Information Systems
- Bachelor of Science in Public Health
- Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences
- Master of Science in Information Systems
- Master of Science in Informatics
- Master of Science in Management and Informatics
- Master’s in Public Health
- Master of Science in Health Informatics
Public Health Informatics
Public health informatics combines public health (which focuses on improving the health of communities) with information science and technology. The average salary for public health informaticists is $69,774. It’s all about using data and computer systems to make public health better.
Here’s an example to help you understand it better: Let’s say there’s an outbreak of a contagious disease like the flu. You would use data to track the spread of the flu, collect information about the affected people, and analyze the data to figure out how to stop the disease from spreading further.
You might develop computer systems that allow doctors, hospitals, and public health agencies to share information quickly and easily. This way, they can track the number of cases, identify any patterns, and take action to protect people’s health.
Organizational informatics refers to the application of information science and technology principles to improve the operations and performance of healthcare organizations. It focuses on leveraging technology, data, and information systems to enhance communication, optimize workflows, and facilitate effective decision-making within healthcare settings.
Here’s an example to help illustrate the concept: Imagine you work in a hospital or healthcare system. You would use technology and data to enhance the functioning of the organization and improve patient care.
You might implement electronic health record (EHR) systems that allow healthcare providers to access patient information easily and securely. This promotes better coordination and continuity of care among different healthcare teams, reduces errors, and enhances patient safety.
Consumer Health Informatics
Consumer health informatics is all about using technology to help people take control of their health and make informed decisions. It’s like having a bunch of digital tools and apps that give you information and tools to manage your health.
Here’s an example to make it clearer: Imagine you have a smartphone with a health app. You can use that app to access reliable health information about yourself or your family and belongings. You can learn about different health conditions, treatments, and ways to stay healthy.
It’s not just about gathering data, but also about helping you make healthy choices. These apps and tools can give you personalized recommendations and reminders to exercise, eat well, take breaks, or quit smoking. They help you build healthy habits and stay on track with your goals.
Social informatics focuses on understanding the social factors that influence the design, implementation, and use of health information technologies, as well as the impact of these technologies on individuals and communities.
For example, think about how social media and online communities have affected health information sharing. You would explore how platforms like patient forums or online support groups influence people’s understanding of health conditions, treatment decisions, and their interactions with healthcare professionals.
Nursing informatics uses technology and information systems to make nursing care better. The average salary for nurse informaticists is $83,593. It helps improve communication among healthcare providers. You might use messaging systems or electronic health record platforms to collaborate with doctors, pharmacists, and other members of the healthcare team.
Here’s an example to make it easier to understand: Imagine you’re a nurse informatics specialist working in a hospital. You would work closely with nurses and other healthcare professionals to understand their needs and develop technology solutions that streamline workflows, reduce errors, and promote patient safety.
Related: How to Choose a Nursing Specialty
Clinical informatics is about using information science and technology to improve patient care, healthcare outcomes, and clinical decision-making. The average salary for clinical informaticists is $109,105. It involves the collection, management, and analysis of healthcare data to support healthcare professionals in providing safe and effective care.
For example, think about electronic health records (EHRs). You help develop and implement these systems, which allow healthcare providers to access important patient information, such as medical history, test results, and medications, all in one place.
Imaging informatics professionals help design and implement systems and software that allow radiologists and other healthcare providers to capture and store these images digitally. This means the images can be accessed quickly and easily by doctors when they need to make diagnoses or plan treatments. The average salary for imaging informaticists is $73,504.
By pursuing a degree in health informatics, you build your expertise in patient care, health data management, and healthcare technology. By seeking additional certifications, you can strengthen your expertise and become a highly sought-after professional in healthcare.
Yes, health informatics is a good career choice. The demand for health information technologists is on the rise—projected to grow 17% in the coming decade—due to the increasing adoption of electronic health records, the expansion of telehealth services, and the need for data-driven decision-making in healthcare.
You can develop soft skills like communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership, which are valuable in collaborating with healthcare professionals and effectively conveying information. You also learn the technical skills to manage various health information systems, such as electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchanges (HIEs), and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems.