Why Should I Consider a Health Informatics Degree?

A person with a passion for service who is looking for a profession at the cutting edge of medicine and information technology might consider a Health Informatics degree. Health informatics is a field that is still evolving; the best minds in medicine and IT are grappling with the gigantic task of harnessing the power of new information technology for the improvement of medical research and health delivery.

What is Health Informatics?Health informatics is an interdisciplinary profession that combines health sciences with information technology to organize and manage medical information and patient data for efficient use by medical professionals and health officials. Electronics has made possible the instant availability of comprehensive information on a patient to medical practitioners both onsite and remotely. The database of electronic health records makes possible data collection for research, reports, and analysis for decision making. Office procedures such as billing is made more efficient when electronic health records are kept.How Does One Train for a Career in Health Informatics?

A high school graduate can prepare for entry into this field by completing an Associate of Science degree in health informatics at a community college. There are now over 80 community colleges across the nation that offer this program, usually of two years length. Many of the programs are offered online and some can be completed in less than two years. Graduates can qualify for a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certificate by completing and passing the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) examination.

In addition, several community colleges offer certificate or diploma programs of one year or less for students who do not intend to go on for a baccalaureate degree. These programs will train students to perform the coding , billing, transcription, and other clerical procedures to work as administrative aides to HIT professionals.

The college student completing a B.S. degree in health informatics can apply for certification as a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA). The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) lists 61 universities that offer formal programs in biomedical, health, and nursing informatics, mostly at the master’s level.

There are a number of graduate and post-graduate certificate programs for physicians, nurses, and other health professionals to acquire knowledge of information science. Most of these programs are provided online and are of short duration. The medical background provided by these health professionals is a vital component needed by IT professionals to enable them to create systems that serve the health industry.

What are the Job Opportunities?

Health informatics training can lead to careers in the following areas:

  • Health Records Administration – managing the recording and retrieving of electronic health records of patients for diagnosis and treatment, as well as for report writing and billing.
  • Information management – collecting, analyzing and interpreting health information for use in planning and decision making.
  • Project management – developing new IT systems and applications for a particular setting and purpose.
  • Research – finding ways to use technology to improve services and for medical research.
  • Education – providing staff training; teaching in colleges and other training sites.

The demand for IT-savvy people in the health sector has sky rocketed, partly from federal requirements for conversion to electronic medical records in 2014. A study in 2012 showed that over 70% of insurers and 48% of health care providers were actively recruiting technical staff. Another 2012 study showed that 67% of hospitals were reporting shortages of health IT staffing. The call for those possessing a health informatics degree has never been higher.