Masters & PhD in Health Informatics Online Programs
What is an Online Health Informatics Graduate Program?
Online Health Informatics degree programs explore an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the processes and tools used to create, record, store, and access health-related data. Online health informatics graduate programs thus often tie together elements of management, computer science, information science, technology, and healthcare.
Why Earn an Online Health Informatics Degree?
At the graduate level, an Online Health Informatics program could lead to a Master of Science degree in Health Informatics (MSHI), although you might study to earn a PhD on campus. Some schools do also offer graduate certificate programs which could accompany a masters program or be pursued on its own.
Build Technical and Business Skills and Knowledge
Students enrolled in online health informatics degree programs could develop skills in several areas. Coursework is often a blend of practical lessons based on case studies and scholarly research. Some of the basic topics covered in a graduate program in health informatics might include the following.
- Healthcare policy, politics and economics
- Business intelligence (BI)
- Information technology (IT)
- Information systems (IS)
- Data analytics
Other, less technical programs could focus more on health administration or leadership. Students could therefore study things such as workflow design, effective communication and how to manage informatics projects. Health data may also be studied for purposes such as quality improvement to patient care, cost control, healthcare delivery and the application to research in various fields.
Online Structure and Format
Often planned-out for working adults, an online Health Informatics Degree program could enable students to take all or most of their classes through web-based platforms. In fact, in some universities the on-campus and online programs have the same content, program objectives and evaluation methods. Only the delivery format is different – you could get to study anytime, anywhere you have internet.
Most universities make use of their own learning management system which could offer various tools. These might include discussion forums, eBooks, an online library, and other resources. In schools where live sessions are held, they are uploaded right to this platform. Students then access a homepage to view their course, navigate through the virtual classroom and submit their assignments. While students may need to find a proctor for exams, feedback for coursework is usually posted on this portal as well.
DID YOU KNOW?
“All work in informatics is motivated by the need to create new solutions”i
Explore an Online Degree in Health Informatics, Health IT or Bioinformatics
Health Informatics online degree seekers should look for a program that aligns with professional and personal interests. The three main terms you might see referenced are Health Informatics (medical informatics), Health IT and Bioinformatics. Each of these could involve specific coursework and skillsets, so make sure you take the time to review options carefully.
Health Informatics: The science of informatics draws on and contributes to other fields (computer science, decision science, information science, management science, cognitive science, organizational theory). While it relates to bioinformatics and health IT, health informatics is a distinct field that zooms in on health information and all aspects of its journey – how it is generated, processed then used, analyzed, managed and interpreted.
Health IT: The computational tools used in the above processes are part of Health Information Technology. Whether it is through a smartphone app, electronic health records (HER), insurance forms, or electronic prescription services, health IT plays a role in patient care and more. The widespread use of technology means that students in some programs could work to achieve proficiency in areas such as data analysis, artificial intelligence and databases.
Bioinformatics: The underlying science of informatics has broad applications to biomedical science, population health and the quality of patient care. Generally, this applied science is referred to as biomedical informatics. The methods and practices developed by biomedical informatics scientists are often relevant in five areas. i
- Translational Bioinformatics – storage, analysis and interpretive methods used to transform biomedical data into positive health measures
- Clinical Research Informatics – use of informatics in the discovery and management of new knowledge related to health and disease
- Clinical Informatics – the use of informatics and IT to deliver healthcare services
- Consumer Health Informatics – devoted to patient-focused informatics and health literacy, it also intersects with nursing informatics, public health and other areas
- Public Health Informatics – concerned with population health, health promotion, bio- surveillance and more
What are Online Masters in Health Informatics Programs?
Online Masters in Health Informatics programs often discuss elements of business, healthcare, and technology. Many programs require students to complete from 30 to 42 credits of coursework, and students often culminate their degree with a final thesis or capstone project. To complete these requirements, a full-time online student might need about 2.5 years, however time to completion, like credit weight, is a variable.
Aside from the Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI), other university departments might award related degrees, such as the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Master of Management, Master of Health Administration and Master of Science in Bioinformatics. Each program could cover different areas of the informatics field. Make sure to contact individual schools for more information.
Online Master of Science in Health Informatics Programs
An online Master of Science in Health Informatics degree program could help students learn to make strategic data-driven decisions about health IT systems for a variety of clinical, administrative and research purposes.
Admissions: Applicants to an online MSHI program may need a bachelors degree in IT or healthcare, although a specific background is not always necessary. In fact, students who plan to switch careers may be able to take some foundational courses through a bridge program. Transcripts, a minimum GPA, resume, and statement of purpose usually accompany an application. Some schools also want to see GRE scores or aptitude in a quantitative field. Check with individual schools about the specifics of their process.
Curriculum: The curriculum for an online MS in Health Informatics could be built upon core courses taken by all students. Electives and areas of emphasis are where students tailor their studies more, and each university has its own selection. To this end, online students are often provided with an advisor to help them choose courses, so you could inquire about this with the universities on your list. Once a student has completed all or most of their courses, they might consult with their advisor to help them decide between a capstone practicum or masters thesis.
Core courses could help students build broad technical and organizational skills and knowledge. Often, a program kicks off with basic topics such as the role of information systems in healthcare delivery. Other courses may examine law, ethical issues and policy. These classes could help students grasp how to comply with regulations that apply to patient information.
Administrative courses might introduce students to current and emergent technologies, as well as how to manage projects, workflow and systems. As a result, MS students might learn to evaluate the functions, limitations, opportunities and challenges of IT in the various healthcare environments.
Technical courses could help students learn how to manage data. These courses may delve into statistical computing, database management and data mining. Some schools also offer courses in mobile health app design, programming and data analytics.
Every school and program has a unique curriculum. It’s best to therefore contact schools for more detailed information.
What is an Online Master of Science in Bioinformatics Degree?
An online Master of Science in Bioinformatics program could bring together elements of computer science, biosciences, and bioinformatics disciplines. Students could engage with course material that covers both theory and practices. Applicants could need a bachelors degree in either biological sciences or engineering along with prerequisite coursework.
Prerequisites could include organic chemistry, biochemistry, programming, data structures, statistics and calculus.
To complete their MS in Bioinformatics degree online, students may take a series of core courses and electives, as well as select an area of emphasis. In their core courses, students might explore the theory and practice of biological database search and information retrieval. Other bioinformatics courses could introduce life sciences students to computing concepts and scripting languages such as SQL and Python. To round out the core requirements, students could take advanced courses in molecular biology, epigenetic gene organization and expression.
Electives could be chosen from computer science and biotechnology. Students might therefore study diverse topics such as mobile app development and virology. To culminate their degree, students might choose to research for and write a thesis.
Online Master of Science in Nursing –Nurse Informatics Programs
Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs are targeted at nurses who wish to expand their practice into a specialty area. Applicants to some programs need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and/or a nursing license.
Online MSN programs typically include core courses in evidence-based practices and organizational leadership . For the Nursing Informatics Specialty, nurses could take some courses that discuss clinical data analytics and decision support. Other courses could help students learn how to design systems, and apply computer and information science theory to nursing practice.
Students who successfully complete this track may be eligible to pursue post-degree certification in Nursing Informatics (RN-BC) by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Contact schools and the ANCC to learn more.
Online Master of Health Administration (MHA) Degree
An online Master of Health Administration (MHA) program is one of the more business focused online health informatics degree programs. Often the emphasis is on strategic planning and organizational leadership, rather than some of the more technical areas. Core courses thus expand on operations, accounting, finance and human resources. Applicants need a bachelors degree, possibly with any major.
Students enrolled in an online MHA program who choose to concentrate in health informatics may only be require to complete two informatics courses in some cases. Students might therefore learn about clinical data analytics, support and other topics, in addition to their administrative core.
Online Health Informatics Degree Concentrations
One of the ways to mold a curriculum to individual interests is through an area of emphasis. Some examples of the types of concentrations you might find in an online Master of Health Analytics program follows. Since these areas vary between schools, make sure to read through program descriptions – it could help one school stand-out to you.
Health Data Analytics: A health data analytics emphasis is intended for health informatics professionals who wish to focus on data science. Students could take courses which foster a deeper understanding of health data, analytic methods, and data mining. They might also learn to apply data science skills to clinical, administrative, and consumer-generated health data.
Health Information Management: A health information management emphasis could help students develop the knowledge and skills needed to work with electronic health records and manage larger systems.
Population Health Informatics: A concentration in population health informatics could help students learn the concepts and skills needed to collect, analyze, and manage population level data. Students could therefore learn how to use the digital tools to improve health outcomes and reduce costs.
Clinical Informatics: An emphasis in clinical informatics could provide courses in clinical research informatics, healthcare cost control and global health informatics.
What is an Online Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics?
An online Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics could be a great option for those looking for a shorter, more focused course of study. Typically certificates target a single topic in about five or so courses. Applicants need an undergraduate degree, with specific requirements based on the program and school.
In some universities, students might be able to transfer their earned credits to a related Master of Science program. Or, you could take the graduate level courses to add expertise and proficiency to a resume or other degree.
Interested in the business of science? You might study to earn a Certificate in Biotechnology Enterprise. This certificate could provide the chance to learn key aspects of biotechnology product development, as well as how to create, lead and manage a new enterprise. Coursework could explore finance and marketing practices that might help students to problem solve, make strategic decisions and innovate.
Students could earn an online Health Informatics degree at a regionally accredited university or college. This level of institutional approval speaks to the school’s finances and the resources available to students.
Some graduate schools may also house individually approved programs. For instance, some Master of Science in Health Informatics programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). This type of approval speaks to the courses and whether they align with standards in the profession. Accreditation is a voluntary process, therefore it’s important to follow up with schools and accrediting bodies if this is important to you.
written by Rana Waxman
[i] amia.org/about-amia/science-informatics | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
|State||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$146,190||2,110|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$125,500||5,150|
DID YOU KNOW? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and health services managers held about 480,700 jobs in 2021. Medical and health services managers may work on a team with other healthcare providers, such as licensed practical nurses and medical assistants.
Schools with Masters & PhD in Health Informatics Online Programs
GradSchools.com offers 36 Graduate School with Masters & PhD in Health Informatics Online Programs
Wake Forest University
Grand Canyon University
Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies
University of Illinois at Chicago
Nova Southeastern University
Johns Hopkins University
College of St. Scholastica
Alfred State College
Roberts Wesleyan College
University of Central Florida