Last Reviewed/Updated: February 20, 2020
The specialized higher education degree in health informatics blends together biology and computer science, preparing students to solve health care issues with applied statistics, data science, and various research methods. Specifically, this degree will focus on optimizing treatment plans for patients and create better methods to prevent diseases, and graduates can use this knowledge at health care facilities or further research in an academic field. Something to look for when researching degrees are programs that have been designated by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). These programs have been reviewed by the organization and match the foundational competency they have set in health care, information technology, professionalism, and social and behavioral sciences.
Masters in Health Data Informatics Degrees
Unlike other programs in the field of data science, health informatics can be very specialized depending on the university selected. Students will typically find Master's programs under Health Informatics, but they can also be labeled as Applied Bioinformatics, Biomedical Informatics, Biostatistics, Healthcare Decision Analysis, Medical Statistics, Nursing Informatics, and other variations of these titles.
While all of these programs will have similar core competencies, they vary in length and will have different requirements in terms of admission and graduation. One of the major benefits taking this pathway is the availability of online options.
What to Expect in an Online Master's of Health Data Informatics Program
In some instances, there are other degrees, like a Master of Business Administration, that have a specialization in health informatics or health care management. The core curriculum will certainly vary with business courses in economics, accounting marketing, leadership, and ethics.
The concentration will consist of foundational courses found in these other programs, such as exploring electronic medical records, the development of telemedicine, and using qualitative and quantitative data to improve practices and procedures.
Completing a Master's program will prepare graduates for roles in hospitals or medical clinics, biomedical research and services, government or insurance agencies, and pharmaceutical companies.
Featured Online Data Science Programs
Johns Hopkins AAP
|MS in Data Science and Policy||Website|
|Master of Science in Applied Data Science||Website|
George Mason University
|Master of Science in Data Analytics Engineering||Website|
Northern Illinois University
|Master of Science in Data Analytics||Website|
University of Denver
|Master of Science in Data Science||Website|
Online Master's Programs
Master of Science in Health Informatics
The Master's degree offered by JU fuses information technology with healthcare management. The curriculum features 11 courses to complete and it can be completed in a year for full-time students. All students will be taking the same courses, but one of the benefits in the program is gaining real-world experience working with a health care facility or partaking in an internship. Students have the flexibility of taking the program on a part-time basis and pursuing their degree either on-campus or online. Certifications to customize their education can be taken after the completion of the degree.
Students that do not hold previous education in the medical field and/or statistics will need to take the following courses: Medical Terminology and Healthcare Essential, and Elementary Statistics. Other admission requirements include having at least a 3.0 GPA with their undergraduate degree, updated resume, personal statement that is at least one page long, and a background check for those that are taking the internship. Letters of recommendation may be needed upon request. Students may still be admitted with a GPA lower than 3.0, but a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score may be required.
Master of Science in Health Informatics
The online MSHI degree offered by the College of Computing and Informatics is accredited by the CAHIIM and provides an education in many subjects, such as information systems, data analytics, health care, and business intelligence. 45 credit hours are needed to complete the degree and it is offered completely online with the opportunity to pursue it as a full-time or part-time student. Eventual graduates will be able to use analytical tools in order to solve medical issues for patients, improve administrative duties within a health care facility, and gain further knowledge in the legal and ethical issues involved.
Students that have completed the program have gone on to become computer systems analysts, medical records coordinator, and chief medical information officers. There are 11 courses that are required in the program, and students will add three approved electives from the college and they can add a free elective from any category. Examples of approved electives include Introduction to Epidemiology, Principles of Cybersecurity, Public Health Informatics, and Social Network Analytics. Students should be holding a Bachelor's degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
University of Cincinnati
Master of Health Informatics
Students that do not have a background in health care can still pursue the Master's degree in health data informatics at the University of Cincinnati. Receiving this degree will show proficiency in developing and managing electronic health records for an organization. Leadership and communication skills will also be developed as the program is geared to improve established workers in the industry. The online program does not require any on-campus visits and it can be fully customized to fit anyone's busy schedule. For those that have completed an undergraduate degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, there is no requirement to submit GRE or GMAT scores.
There are six different times that students can be administered into the program. The 33-credit hour curriculum can be completed in a year for full-time students. There is an optional certification in Health Information Security that can be obtained after completing the Master's degree, which adds the ability to secure sensitive information in health care and develop policy and regulations for health care facilities. Online and on-campus programs have different schedules, and courses are taken in a 7-week or 14-week format. Some courses will require virtual proctoring software to complete exams and quizzes.
Arizona State University
Master of Advanced Study in Health Informatics
This unique online program offered by the College of Health Solutions has a 30-credit hour curriculum that consists of 10 total courses, each taking 7.5 weeks to complete. There are four core courses that all students will take, five elective options to customize the degree, and a final project that culminates the program. Students will discover the fundamentals of health informatics and the transition to using electronic records, how to create and manage databases, and how to work in various aspects of the health care industry.
In order to fully utilize the online program, prospective students should have a desktop or laptop computer. Mobile devices can be used to access some course materials, but it will not be compatible with all required activities. Recommended operating systems are Windows and Mac to install program-specific software when applicable, and recommended browsers to view course materials are Firefox and Chrome. There is around-the-clock technical help and live chat in order for students to complete coursework at any time of the day. There is an orientation program where students can meet other online peers and serves as an optimization process to get the most out of the online program.
Difference Between Online and Campus-Based Programs
There are a wealth of online educational opportunities in this field of data science, so students have many different choices when it comes to pursuing a health informatics program. This is due to the nature of the career as students will be studying and utilizing information technology and information systems. Having hands-on experience with electronic medical records and analyzing datasets gives them an advantage in the field along with an education in foundational aspects of health care, education on new developments and innovations in the field, and becoming familiar with the legal and ethical aspects of the industry.
Online courses will differ in schedule format, with some programs running seven to eight weeks at a time, or courses are completed in a more semester-based time frame. In some instances, the school will provide a blend of online and on-campus courses for students that live close enough to the university location. Many on-campus programs will have an opportunity or requirement to complete an internship, while online students will complete a portfolio to show employers their competencies in statistical analysis. These are not exclusive to the distribution and prospective students should review all criteria needed to complete the degree.
The process of scraping and analyzing structured and unstructured data in order to find the best solutions for problems. There are a number of courses that can be related to this, such as machine learning, statistical methods, and data management. Within health informatics, students will gain experience in working with electronic medical records and determining the best healing process for patients.
Another course that is common in the health informatics curriculum is the management of medical treatment within an organization. This will optimize not only the best practices, but will give recommendations on patients meeting with particular specialists. These courses can also explore leadership abilities and financial management of the organization.
Cyber Security / Information Assurance
It is important not to get the two confused as cyber security and information assurance are commonly interchanged, but they reference two different fields. Cyber security defends networks and sensitive information from cyber attacks, and this includes identifying any vulnerabilities and actively minimizing ongoing threats. Information assurance is focused on protecting various formats of information, not limited to online storage, with specifics in cryptology and fraud examination.
Legal and Ethical Issues
This is a subject explored in every curriculum related to health care. It is very important for all organizations to follow ethical and legal regulations in order to protect patients and provide them the best form of care. This includes giving patients medical information and recommendation, but catering to their desires, protecting patient information by following the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), and diagnosing patients correctly to avoid malpractice.
Many programs within health care informatics will require or have an option in taking an internship. This provides the necessary hands-on experience to succeed in the career path they choose in health care when working with patients and/or sensitive information. For those taking a Master’s degree and already has years of working experience, internship requirements are typically waived.
Careers and Salaries
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions within medical records and health information technicians will grow 11 percent between the years of 2018-28. The rapid growth is due to the continuous reliance in electronic health records and all workers will need to show competency when working with this information. The median wage for positions at hospitals is around $43,470 annually, and that number lowers when looking at technical services, administrative services, and nursing care facilities. There are many specialties to consider in both analyst and managerial roles.
An EHR system analyst has the responsibility to organize, access, and update patient records in a virtual format. They can also have duties in the engineering process and how it is designed, or give recommendations on how the process can be improved and identifying any issues. Typically, they will need to be an expert on rules and regulations in order for the organization to be compliant. Common locations for this position will be at the health care facility itself, or working with an organization’s health care information as a third-party firm.
Quality analytics managers have similar duties as systems analysts, but they will be on a larger scale. They will have more responsibility in terms of the EMR being maintained in a correct fashion and that all regulations are being met. They can typically have the final say on recommendations to change methods or optimize processes at their facility. They will also be responsible in determining financial risk on any changes that could be put in place, which will impact these decisions.