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Online Master’s Degree in Health Informatics

Health informatics is the application of information technology skills to health care organizations, and the means by which health information technology professionals store, access, and use information collected on a health care organization’s computers and electronic databases, particularly electronic health records. The overarching goal of the health informatics discipline is to improve patient outcomes and health care delivery through the use of information technology in health care settings. For this reason, students who pursue a masters degree in health informatics are generally interested in facilitating effective communication between health information technology professionals and health care providers.

Many who seek a master degree in health informatics are IT professionals who wish to transition into health care, or health care clinicians who wish to transition into informatics. Others are working health information professionals who want to advance to a management position or expand their career options. To better serve these working adults, universities began offering an accredited online masters degree in health informatics to allow students to earn a degree on a more flexible schedule through distance education. An online masters degree program in health informatics typically takes one to two years of full-time work to complete, depending on the number of credit hours required by the program. Program length may also depend on other factors, such as the need to complete prerequisites before beginning the program, and whether the student enrolls full time or part time.

Classes for an Online Masters Degree in Health Informatics

The courses taken in an online masters degree program in health informatics are designed to build a student’s practical skills in health information technology, including working with relevant software and technology that is currently being used in the health care industry. Students learn the role and function of health informatics, methods of organizing and retrieving health data, principles of data management and data security, and clinical data analysis. Key laws that govern health information privacy are also emphasized. While required course work may differ significantly from program to program, some courses you may encounter in an online masters health informatics degree include:

  • Introduction to Health Information Systems
  • Database Design in Health care
  • Project Management
  • Legal Issues in Health Information Technology and Systems
  • Quality Management in Health Services

Depending on the program, an online masters in health informatics may conclude with a thesis, non-thesis research project, or capstone project. A master’s thesis will detail a student’s original, substantive research in an area related to health information management or health informatics, and will generally need to be defended in front of a faculty panel. A non-thesis research project may entail identifying a real-world problem in the realm of health informatics and drafting a well-defined solution drawing from what you’ve learned in your course work. Some programs may even require fieldwork or a health informatics internship.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Masters Degree in Health Informatics

Students with an online masters degree in health informatics may pursue careers at a wide range of health care settings, including hospitals, clinics, and the companies these entities may contract with to handle their health information technology needs. One potential career is that of clinical analysts, who are responsible for analyzing workflows and collecting specific data at health care organizations, according to information provided by Northeastern University’s health informatics graduate program. Clinical analysts may also develop and maintain clinical software applications. A sampling of related career titles on job search sites included health informatics specialist, health informatics lead, HIM informaticist, informatics applications operation analyst, and nursing informatics coordinator.

Master’s graduates may also want to pursue careers as health information managers, whose responsibilities entail maintaining and securing patient medical records. While a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to become a medical or health services manager, master’s degrees are also common in the industry, and a graduate degree could give you an edge over other applicants in a competitive job market. Faster than average employment growth of 22% is expected for medical and health services managers between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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