The US National Library of Medicine (NLM) defines health informatics as “the interdisciplinary study of the design, development, adoption and application of IT-based innovations in health care services delivery, management and planning.” It follows, then, that an online health informatics school should help students learn how to use data and information technology to improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of health care.
The programs on this page are designed to elevate your understanding of this rapidly growing field so you can help lead the transformation of health care while also putting yourself in high demand for exciting new opportunities in the field. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has identified emerging health information careers like EHR implementation specialist, E-MPI manager, health IT research and development scientist and chief learning officer (CLO)—all positions requiring skills that may overlap with the learning outcomes of a Master’s of Health Informatics degree.
The best Master’s of Health Informatics degree programs equip students with a wide range of health IT and data-related skills that can be applied across the spectrum of healthcare delivery to improve public health and patient outcomes. We’ve included a quick checklist to help you in evaluating online MHI programs.
Regarding online MHI degree programs, you may encounter differences in terms of how students interact with the courses.
- Synchronous learning is when lectures, discussions and presentations are delivered live, usually streamed over the Internet using streaming audio and video technology. Students must be online at those times in order to participate.
- Asynchronous learning allows students to complete work on their own time. Students are generally given a time frame during which they need to watch recorded lectures, participate in online discussions and complete assignments.
Online MHI programs may also be a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning. As you look through health informatics schools and programs, be sure to consider how the courses are delivered to select the one that best fits your needs.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), medical informatics programs include instruction in computer science, health information systems architecture, medical knowledge structures, quantitative medical decision modeling, electronic medical records, medical research systems and informatics aspects of medical research and clinical decision making. However, specific coursework may vary by program. When evaluating MHI curriculum, you might consider how the coursework will help you develop the skills needed to become a health informatics professional. In other words, evaluate the curriculum against the core competencies of health informatics.
Competencies are the minimal knowledge, skills, values, experience and judgement a person needs in order to succeed within a specific role in a particular field. Some of the competencies of health informatics, according to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), include:
- Management and operations of health information systems
- Design and evaluation of health information systems
- Analysis, manipulation and representation of data information and knowledge
Canada’s Health Informatics Association (COACH) provides a definition of the health informatics professional that may also be helpful in evaluating MHI curriculum. Health informatics professionals, according to COACH:
- Work in collaboration with a variety of health care providers and other professionals to ensure the best possible delivery of care
- Apply ethical principles to the collection, maintenance, use and dissemination of data and information
- Promote and incorporate standardization and consistency with respect to how information is captured, reported and exchanged
Internship, practicum or field experience
Many online Master’s of Health Informatics programs include a hands-on component meant to develop your skills and give real-world context to theories and principles learned in the classroom. As you explore online MHI programs, consider whether an internship, practicum or field experience is required. These may also be referred to as immersion events. If you will be applying to a health informatics school in another state, consider the travel requirements for meeting the degree’s immersion or practicum requirement.
Learn more about the Master of Health Informatics program from George Washington University.