Healthcare is a field in transition: growing fast, consolidating rapidly, and digitizing at a dizzying pace. Did you know that this sector now employs more workers than any other U.S. industry? It’s also in the midst of a wave of consolidation and is witnessing the "explosive growth" of healthcare data. The handling of that data—the ways in which it is stored, coded, and transmitted—is at the core of the healthcare informatics and information management profession.
In 2014, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) mandated a nationwide push towards electronic medical records (EMRs) in all facets of healthcare. In the years since, the vast majority of providers moved to exclusively electronic recordkeeping. By 2017, nearly 86 percent of office-based physicians had adopted electronic health records (EHR), and at least 95 percent of U.S. hospitals now use certified EHR technology.
If you already knew all of the above, you may also know that a master of healthcare informatics and information management (MHIIM) degree will prepare you to develop and manage health information systems, including those super in-demand EHR systems. That, and you’ll learn how to organize, use and transfer of information, understand the sociological considerations of health computing, and oversee network and database administration, security, and programming.
But you may be on the fence about heading back to school. Which is why we’re here, with six reasons to make the jump and get a master of healthcare informatics and information management degree.
Healthcare has always been a forward-thinking sector. In the case of healthcare informatics, that means looking to technology. Three-quarters of senior hospital executives say they recognize the importance of digital advancement, and innovations like telehealth, analytics, and artificial intelligence present new opportunities for growth. But not everyone in the healthcare industry is equipped to embrace what modern technology has to offer. An MHIIM will give you the know-how to leverage cutting-edge tools and adapt health practices to meet technological demands position healthcare institutions for continued success.
If you already have a bachelor's degree in computer science or another IT field, you can transition into healthcare with an MHIIM. Your degree will build on what you already know about human-computer interaction and data analysis, applying your expertise to a clinical context.
A master's in healthcare informatics and information management curriculum will give you hands-on training for many of the day-to-day IT roles in healthcare institutions, including medical records and health information technician or informatics manager. But with a little strategic planning, extra professional development, and entrepreneurial spirit, you might also be able to shift your career in new and exciting directions. Your skills may be needed in a healthcare startup, for example, or as part of health system technology reform efforts in government or the insurance industry.
Because the MHIIM degree attracts working professionals, most health informatics graduate programs offer flexible hours and part-time schedules. A degree may take as few as 18 months to complete part-time, or even fewer for full-time students, and many programs lend themselves to online education. In the University of Washington's Master of Health Informatics and Health Information Management program, which boasts a 100 percent employment rate within one year of graduation, students meet in-person once a month and online once a week for 18 months. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center offers a post-graduate MHIIM that’s entirely online, and part-time students take between 4 to 6 semesters to complete the degree. Last year, 100 percent of UT's health informatics online graduates passed the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification exam. Impressive, right?
Quality master of health informatics programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM); this accreditation is a requirement for RHIA certification and ensures that health information management programs cover certain essential material. Look for that designation when deciding which program to pursue, and you’ll be guaranteed to get a high-quality technical education—no matter the classroom format.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment opportunities for health technologists and technicians will grow 14 percent by 2026, while jobs for health information technicians will increase 13 percent. Both of these careers are growing much faster than the 7-percent average for all occupations. There’s no doubt about it, the skills taught in master of health informatics programs are in demand and will continue to be for years to come.
The healthcare industry is expecting to gain four million new jobs by 2026. As more healthcare institutions adopt EHR systems and other forms of IT infrastructure, more technicians will be needed to set up, manage, and secure those systems. And as advanced IT tools make inroads in the healthcare marketplace, health information managers will continue to be critical players.
Once you’ve gotten hands-on experience and training in health information technology from your informatics program coursework, you’ll be able to further your career by pursuing specialized knowledge in clinical informatics, biomedical informatics, nursing informatics, hospital management informatics, or any other number of focus areas.
You can also increase your job opportunities by earning additional certifications. The BLS finds that Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT) and Certified Tumor Registrars (CTR) are in the most in-demand professionals in the health information systems field.
Healthcare professionals spend their lives helping others—even saving others' lives—and a career in health informatics systems will make you an essential part of that pursuit. Many people with similar degrees gain tremendous satisfaction from knowing that their daily work improves people's lives and contributes to long-term care advances nationwide.
Whether it's in a long-term care facility, a children's hospital, or a health startup, an MHIIM degree is a slam-dunk for those who want to work at the forefront of technological change, have an interest in IT and computer systems, and are concerned with helping others live long and healthy lives.
Not only is the mandated adoption of EMRs transforming the healthcare informatics field, new technology is contributing to the evolution as well. Data analytics, real-time data, medical imaging, chatbots and virtual assistants, and artificial intelligence tools are changing the face of medical care. By securing your master in health informatics, you’ll learn how to harness data and information using these next-generation tools—and take the first step of an exciting career in healthcare.
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