2020 Online Colleges for Healthcare Informatics Degrees
Online healthcare informatics degrees can be pursued at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or certificate level. In these degree programs, students will be taught about healthcare informatics, information systems, healthcare business practices, and healthcare ethics. Prospective students will find high-quality options on our list of the most popular online schools offering healthcare information systems degrees.
Those seeking online degrees in healthcare informatics should look for programs accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM) or the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Healthcare Informatics Degrees
Online Healthcare Informatics Degree Overview & Career Information
Undergraduate certificates and associate degrees in healthcare informatics are usually designed for entry into the healthcare information technician career. These programs introduce students to medical sciences, medical terminology, healthcare IT, and systems administration. Students learn both the technical and interpersonal skills required in the healthcare IT industry; they also study general education areas like English, public speaking, and mathematics. Some associate degree programs in healthcare information systems require hands-on practicums or internships in a medical setting.
The online bachelor’s program in healthcare information systems is usually required for entering management and supervisory roles in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other healthcare settings. Students learn about legal issues in medical settings, medical terminology, health records management, medical coding, financial management, and human resources management. Some bachelor’s degrees allow students to specialize in information management in a particular type of healthcare setting, such as a hospital, nursing home, or outpatient facility. Most programs require an internship in an administrative position in a healthcare setting.
The online master’s degree or graduate certificate in healthcare information systems can be a way to advance in healthcare IT or enter the field from a different career. Coursework covers the history of the United States healthcare system, medical informatics, leadership, healthcare operations, biostatistics, and medical information systems acquisitions. These graduate programs may require up to a year of supervised work in a healthcare facility in the student’s local area. Current physicians, nurses, physical therapists, or other care providers may use these programs to update their information systems knowledge.
Online Associate Degrees in Healthcare Informatics
Those who hold an associate degree in healthcare informatics generally go into careers as medical records and health information technicians in hospitals and other care facilities. This degree level is adequate for most of these jobs, but higher education or professional certifications may be required by some hospitals or individual employers. For some students, associate degrees in healthcare information systems are a good first step before enrolling in a related bachelor's degree program.
Associate degrees in healthcare information systems require a high school diploma or GED. Applicants will need to provide transcripts from high school classes and any college coursework they may have previously completed. Full time students can usually complete an online associate degree in two years. These degrees require about 60 semester units in order to graduate.
Online healthcare information systems associate degrees usually include both general and specific courses involving both medical subjects as well as computer technology. Common courses include medical terminology, introduction to health services, introduction to information systems, coding, classification of diseases, legal issues in health, health insurance and reimbursement, basic computer skills, English, writing, general physical and biological science, and healthcare organizations.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Healthcare Informatics
An online bachelor's degree in healthcare information systems is a good launching point for individuals hoping to become systems managers in nursing care facilities, physicians' offices, hospitals, psychiatric centers, and outpatient clinics. After earning a bachelor's degree, some may go on to pursue certification to maximize their chances of getting promoted in their careers. Those who want to pursue teaching or consulting jobs are encouraged to pursue master's degrees.
Applicants to online bachelor's degrees in healthcare information systems will need to have a high school diploma or GED. Most schools require students to submit their high school transcripts as well as transcripts from any college-level coursework they may have already completed. Other application requirements may include SAT or ACT scores and/or minimum GPA requirements. Online bachelor's degrees usually take about four years during which students are expected to complete at least 120 semester credit hours.
Bachelor's degree programs in healthcare informatics introduce students to foundational principles and procedures in the field. Specific subjects that are stressed often include patient data analysis and business management. Individuals explore various course topics such as physiology, medical terminology, healthcare reimbursement methods, computer science, anatomy, classification and coding systems, healthcare statistics, and health data requirements.
Online Master's Degrees in Healthcare Informatics
Healthcare informatics master's programs provide students with advanced skills for managing sensitive healthcare data.
These online programs require two years of coursework and around 20 courses. To enroll, applicants will need an accredited bachelor's degree; some programs require previous healthcare experience or minimum GPAs as well. Applications generally require transcripts from all colleges and universities students have previously attended as well as some or all of the following: resume or CV, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and writing samples.
Courses in healthcare information systems help students learn to create new information management and analysis systems for pharmacies and hospitals. Common core courses include statistics, data management, and software engineering. Additional courses explore the role of technology in the healthcare system—particularly network security. Master's students might also be required to take classes in healthcare ethics, healthcare information law, terminology, and healthcare communications.
Many healthcare informatics master's programs have a thesis option or requirement. The thesis is a cumulative project that gives students the chance to take what they have learned in their degree program, spend additional time studying a topic that is of particular interest to them, and write an extensive research paper on the topic. Employers may favor graduates who have chosen relevant thesis topics and completed a quality paper because it shows that they have mastery of a given subject.
The healthcare field is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the United States and in the world. It is also constantly adopting new technologies that require the skills of people trained specifically in healthcare information systems. With a master's degree, graduates may go on to work in healthcare information systems development, implementation, and training organizations around the world. Some graduates with particularly strong programming skills even decide to create their own systems for particular hospitals, pharmacies, or other healthcare organizations.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Healthcare Informatics
An online doctoral degree in healthcare informatics is a good choice for individuals hoping to have careers involving research in healthcare information systems.
Typically, only universities offer doctoral degrees in healthcare informatics. Applicants typically need to have graduated with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and will need to provide undergraduate transcripts as part of the application process. Some schools also require a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Other application requirements may include GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statements.
Online doctoral degrees in healthcare informatics can often be completed in three to five years. Sample courses for most doctoral programs in healthcare informatics include information technology strategy and policy, healthcare management, applied statistics, and data analytics in healthcare. Students will also need to complete a dissertation on a topic of their choosing.
After successful completion of a doctoral program, graduates will have the opportunity to work in medical facilities alongside other healthcare professionals to conduct research and lead innovations in health systems and information technology.
Online Certificates in Healthcare Informatics
Online certificates in healthcare informatics can be found at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduate certificates are found at community colleges and technical schools. These online programs are geared toward students with a high school diploma hoping to enter the field and usually require under two years to complete. The coursework for online undergraduate certificates in this field teaches students how to preserve medical records and billing information for patients, as well as the ethical and legal considerations relevant to the field. Students will learn to utilize a variety of software programs for these purposes. Students will also become familiar with medical terminology and different parts of the human body and may learn aspects of coding related to insurance companies and billing purposes.
Online graduate certificates in healthcare information systems are for students who have already earned a bachelor's degree. These programs are best for individuals seeking opportunities for advancement in the healthcare field or looking to deepen their understanding of healthcare information systems. Coursework will vary by school and certificate program focus but may include classes on healthcare statistics, computer systems, project management, analysis and modeling of healthcare data, and legal and ethical issues related to the field.
Institutional accreditation is granted to colleges and universities that meet established standards. Accreditation is a formal recognition that a school or degree program meets the academic standards of the US Department of Education (USDE). Attending an accredited institution means that you will be receiving an education from faculty members that have met national standards, you will be eligible to receive federal financial aid, and you will have an easier time transferring credits between institutions of higher education.
Accreditation is also important post-graduation. Many employers want to hire graduates from accredited schools and professional certification is usually only available to graduates of accredited programs. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the USDE each offer a database of legitimate accrediting agencies and accredited institutions and programs.
In contrast to institutional accreditation, programmatic accreditation is granted to individual degree programs that meet the academic standards for a particular discipline. The main accrediting agencies for healthcare information systems programs are the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM) and the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). Programmatic accreditation indicates that a specific degree program provides educational experiences and resources relevant to the field.
Professional certification in healthcare information systems can help graduates stand out in certain careers. Depending on the state in which you live, some healthcare information systems careers require post-degree certification or licensure. It’s wise for prospective healthcare information systems students to investigate certification and licensure requirements for their state before enrolling in a particular online degree program.
One of the most common certification organizations is the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). AHIMA offers two important credentials for healthcare information managers: the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) and the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). Candidates for either certification must complete a CAHIIM-accredited degree program and pass an exam. These credentials last for two years so candidates must earn continuing education units to renew them and recertify. In addition to working in medical care facilities, certified healthcare information system managers may also be able to utilize their skills and experience to apply for positions with government agencies, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and law firms.
While pursuing an online degree in online healthcare information systems or healthcare informatics, students will be exposed to classes in information technology (IT), informatics, and healthcare operations, records, and management. Introductory classes expose students to the fundamentals of IT system analysis and design, network management, software applications, electronic health records, information exchanges, and the impact of IT on clinical and healthcare personnel and evidence-based medicine.
Early courses in the master's program are typically lecture based, with supplementary reading in a textbook, while later classes focus more on case studies, design, and field experience. In these advanced classes students will work with database design and management, Oracle software, and will complete field experience. Finally, master's programs typically include a capstone project designed by individual students in consultation with a mentor. Projects are often based on the practical work and research students did while completing their field experience. These projects allow students to use classroom knowledge in an effort to solve real-world problems.
After completing an online certificate or degree program in healthcare information systems, graduates may pursue a variety of career possibilities that utilize the skills and knowledge needed to accurately maintain sensitive healthcare information such as medical terminology, proper coding and billing procedures, and computer applications. Here are some examples of the job titles that healthcare information systems graduates may pursue:
- Cancer Registrars: These healthcare professionals maintain databases of information with regard to cancer treatment, relapse rates, and survival rates. They may work on national databases or in facility-specific databases.
- Health Information Managers: These healthcare managers are the professionals who administer the information systems used in healthcare facilities. They choose which information systems to use, direct health information technicians, and ensure that electronic records systems are accurate, secure, and up to date.
- Medical Billing and Coding Specialists: These healthcare technicians ensure that hospitals, physician offices, and other healthcare centers are correctly reimbursed for their services by private and public insurance providers. They translate a doctor’s diagnosis into a numerical code, which is then used to charge the insurance provider.
- Medical Records & Health Information Technicians: These specialists are responsible for updating medical records on a daily basis. They ensure that all parts of a patient’s records are kept together and that they are maintained securely and accurately.
Healthcare Informatics vs. Healthcare Information Management
While health informatics and health information management sound similar, they refer to distinctly different careers within the healthcare field. Healthcare information management focuses primarily on the technology used to keep track of patient records and make them accessible to healthcare practitioners. The primary responsibilities of those in the field are the organization and management of data. In contrast, health informatics uses the the data and technology used in healthcare information management to improve the healthcare system for patients. People in the health informatics field utilize computer science and statistics to analyze patient data that is managed and organized by healthcare information management professionals.
- Accredited Program Directory. Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Informatics and Information Management. Accessed March 8, 2018. http://www.cahiim.org/accredpgms.asp.
- Computer and Information Systems Managers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed March 8, 2018. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm.
- Types of Certifications. AHIMA. Accessed March 8, 2018. http://www.ahima.org/certification/exams?tabid=him.
- Information Systems, D.Sc. Dakota State University Academic Catalog. Accessed March 12, 2018. http://catalog.dsu.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=23&poid=1627.
- Ph.D. in Informatics, with Emphasis in Health Informatics. Missouri University. Accessed March 12, 2018. http://hmi.missouri.edu/prospective/phdhi_description.html.