Healthcare informatics is a burgeoning specialty, due to the rising use of computers and software programs needed to track huge the huge volume patient data being generated today. A degree at either the bachelor or masters degree level could potentially help you gain employment as a health informatics specialist. However, some degree programs in this area are geared towards nurses and other healthcare professionals, while others are more targeted at computer technology or business professionals. (Click to a list of schools offering online degrees in health science)
How do you distinguish the degree programs that are appropriate for a technology or business person from those that will make more sense for a nurse or other health care worker? A good way to start is to carefully examine the courses offered in each program see if they focus more on clinical health concepts or business and computer development topics with more of a corporate slant.
A Close Call
Many of the healthcare informatics programs online share certain course requirements. But if you are a registered nurse who wishes to continue working in the hospital setting, for example, you’ll probably want to choose a program offering courses that are relevant to this setting. Typical examples would be in topics like interactive healthcare systems or electronic medical records. If you have an IT or accounting background and wish to work in a government-run public health agency, a little investigation online should turn up informatics degree programs with courses like budgeting and strategic planning that will better fit your interests.
The picture gets even a bit more complicated when you consider that there are many degree programs that focus specifically on nursing informatics, primarily for RNs who are very committed to staying not just in the general healthcare sector, but specifically in direct patient care. More on nursing informatics degrees here.
Which Courses To Choose
Nurses or other healthcare professionals who have a strong interest in computer technology and want to use it in a health care facility to improve patient care will generally lean towards informatics degree programs that include courses in: Analysis of healthcare data
- Management of data
- Design of interactive healthcare systems
- Quality assurance as it applies to gathering and management of healthcare data
- Information systems and design
- Electronic medical records
- Laboratory and radiology online systems
- Clinical operations
- Training of healthcare workers in the use of information systems
- Regulations that govern the collection and storage of healthcare information
On the other hand, students who want to become informatics specialist, but not work in the “front lines” of healthcare, will want to lean towards a degree program with more of a business or corporate focus, and which will include courses like:
- Health and social policy
- Facilitation of information sharing
- Cost analysis
- Assessing changes in the healthcare system
- Strategic planning
- Improving cost efficiencies
Choosing the right health science degree program in informatics can be tricky, because many basic course can pop up in either a healthcare or business-focused curriculum. Research is your best ally in choosing a program that will serve your needs and your future goals. Gather specific course outlines and speak to an admissions officer or even a professor at the school you’re considering. In doing so, you’ll be able to clarify which program is most suited to your educational and professional background, and to your future aspirations.