Health informatics is the behind-the-scenes career of the health industry that focuses on technical aspects and patient data. This career involves the collection, organization, and use of healthcare information in order to foster improved collaboration between a person’s many healthcare providers. Health informatics professionals play an understated, uniquely critical role in both medical services as well as health policies and the push for healthcare reform in the United States. As the technical aspects of medicine take on a larger scope, the demand for health informatics professionals is set to increase over the coming years.
Enroll in a health informatics degree online and you'll study information science, medical terminology and technology. Health informatics is an exploding field that requires computer smarts and medical knowledge. Through your studies, you'll learn how how to use computer databases and medical coding to track health records. Organizing, analyzing and using medical records will be a part of your daily work, as will looking for ways to deliver patient information more effectively. This degree offers the ability to work in healthcare but in a more administrative position. While the program could be a natural fit if you're already working in the medical field, it's also quite suitable if you want to start a new career.
THE CAREER PATH
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are gaining popularity throughout the healthcare industry, which means the demand for qualified professionals who can understand and manage EHR software and data is on the rise. Medical records and health information technicians (HITs) are the professionals who organize and manage health information data to maintain quality, accuracy, and security in physical and digital systems. HITs don’t necessarily provide direct patient care, but work very intimately with confidential patient information and other healthcare professionals. Careers in health informatics require a knowledge of the technical aspects of EHRs in addition to an understanding of the medical and privacy practices that you will be working with.
If you are already employed in the IT sector, specializing in health informatics could revitalize your career. Most workers who move from IT into health informatics are already employed as database developers, programmers or administrators. As a nurse seeking to change careers and move into administration, you can enlist your knowledge of patient care, treatment and medical billing to oversee records management and reporting.
As a health informatics degree online graduate, you could find work in an insurance company, doctor's office or hospital. If you have an associate's degree, you could find work as a medical records and health information technician. With a more advanced degree, you could seek a management position and oversee national health record systems for large medical systems.
The DOL mentions that the average pay for HITs is around $37,000 each year, but some health informatics professionals may fall into other categories for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, such as “Computer Information Systems Managers” with a specialty in healthcare. Professionals with these alternative titles may average at more than $100,000 each year.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Professionals who are seeking a career in health informatics must be honest people. The career requires an integrity of professionals to uphold the confidentiality of sensitive information about patients and their health. Health informatics also requires unique technical skills within the medical industry. Professionals must be competent enough to use coding and classifying software as well as EHR systems.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
It is most common for health informatics professionals to obtain a postsecondary certificate or associate’s degree in the field. Typically, careers in health informatics can be advanced or specialized on with graduate level education. Programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM) may garner more respect but may also come with a higher price tag.
Expect an undergraduate online health informatics degree program to include courses in computer and IT systems, math, computer security, and database administration. You should also learn medical coding and billing, medical terminology, anatomy, and biology. Other common topics include health care law, ethics, and administration. Your program will be a mix of computer science, healthcare, and business classes.
On the other hand, a graduate level education in health informatics focus on the advanced skills needed to develop and manage computerized database and record-keeping systems inside hospitals, clinics, and pharmaceutical research plants. You will study project management, supervision, and data security in a master's or advanced certificate level.
According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), certification programs can cost as little as $200. For advanced degrees, programs are be more expensive. Most of the master’s programs cost between $20,000 and $30,000.