Medical Informatics Degree

What kinds of health informatics degrees are available?

A number of educational institutions offer health informatics degrees, either online or through traditional on-campus classroom instruction.  Available degrees include bachelor’s degrees and certificate programs. Health information administrators, who approach health or medical informatics from the managerial perspective, generally need a bachelor’s degree to gain a foothold in the field of administration and advance in their fields.
Some health information administrators earn the master’s degree, while some hold a doctorate in health informatics. This can work to contribute significantly to the health information management salary earned by these informaticists.  Large universitieshealth information manager on the job with sizeable graduate departments, medical schools, and schools of public health and public policy offer medical informatics graduate degrees.  While some graduate programs offer general degrees in informatics, others offer more specialized degrees.  For instance, dental schools may offer degrees in dental informatics that prepare students to work as health information administrators in dental practices.  Degree programs for those pursuing health information management jobs in bioinformatics, on the other hand, train students in the applications of informatics to the fields of molecular biology and genetic engineering and prepare aspiring health information administrators for positions in the high-level research settings.

How should aspiring health information administrators prepare for pursuing a health informatics degree?

Individuals who pursue a health informatics degree often already hold one or more degrees in an allied health field or related subject areas, including medicine, nursing, pharmacology, dentistry, public health, epidemiology, biostatistics, or molecular biology.  They also often have previous experience working in a healthcare setting. 

Prerequisites for admission to a program in health informatics may include a general knowledge of a clinical medical or allied health field; a familiarity with medical terminology and standard medical abbreviations; a solid grounding in statistics, especially biostatistics; proficiency in computer technology and software applications. 

Undergraduates considering a career in health informatics should take courses in statistics, computer science, mathematics, and the life sciences, including biology, anatomy, microbiology, and molecular biology.  Courses in public health and epidemiology are also recommended.

What professional and academic resources are available to health information administrators?

Health information administrators may join a number of different professional organizations that will help them network with others in their field and keep on top of technological innovations.  These organizations include AHIMA (the American Health Information Management Association), which boasts over 60,000 members whose work requires the management of personal medical records.  The AMIA (the American Medical Informatics Association) has about 4000 members who work to promote the use of informational tools to improve patient care, medical research, healthcare administration, and public health policy. 

The AMIA also publishes the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.  In addition, the IMIA (the International Medical Informatics Association) promotes the use of health informatics in healthcare and research settings to improve record management and patient treatment and to discover new applications in practice and policy for informational tools used in a medical context. 

What are the skills and qualities that characterize a successful health information administrator?

Health information administrators should have a deep knowledge of and interest in information technologies of all kinds, including computer technology and software applications.  Working in the field of health informatics requires keeping abreast of technological developments and mastering them quickly.  Thus, health information administrators must adapt to evolving technology and understand how best to apply and use it in a healthcare or medical research setting.

Health information administrators should also have superior quantitative and analytical skills.  Because they may engage in data entry and their work involves the handling of a great deal of information from varied sources, they should also be meticulous and detail-oriented.  The best health information administrators have a keen understanding of how their work affects patients and medical staff alike, and regard the protection of patient welfare and public health as the ultimate goal of their profession.  However, health information administrators spend more time working with data, statistical equations, and computers than with people.  They should therefore enjoy working independently on challenging work that requires intense concentration and mental focus. 

Health Information Management / Informatics Schools