Health informatics combines fundamental concepts of health care and information science. Students who complete an associate degree in health informatics will learn about the acquisition, storage, and management of health records. This may include working with patient charts, doctors’ notes, or insurance information. In today’s technology-based workplace, graduates will be prepared with the technical skills and knowledge of industry software needed to work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, clinics, and other related facilities. Courses in business communication, health care ethics, medical terminology, and computer technology are also common.
Why an Associate Degree?
Most employers look to hire health information technicians with professional certification. To earn this, you must complete an approved certificate or associate degree program and, in most cases, pass an exam. An accredited associate degree program typically takes two years of full-time study and will prepare students to become registered health information technicians (RHITs). This is the most common certification in the field. Continuing education courses may be required, and are certainly beneficial, but formal education beyond an associate degree is not necessary unless you are interested in working in development or research for health informatics technology.
Getting Into an Associate Degree Program
Whether you are considering going back to school or taking college courses for the first time, it is important to do your research. Below are a few common eligibility requirements to keep in mind when applying to associate degree programs:
- A high school diploma or equivalent
- Any relevant college transcripts
- Application form and fee
- Application essay (if required)
Inside a Health Informatics Associate Degree Program
In most cases, online associate degree programs in health informatics are designed to be completed in two years of full-time study. Of course, this can vary based on how many classes you take each term, any breaks you may take, and whether or not you have any transfer credits. Most students at this level will need to complete a series of general education requirements in addition to their major course work. These may include topics such as composition, speech, computer and information literacy, and mathematics. Common major courses cover health care ethics, anatomy, medical terminology, health care delivery systems, reimbursement, health information management, medical records systems, data management, and classification systems, indexes, and registries, to name a few.
Online students will be able to submit assignments, review course materials, and communicate with peers and professors via the virtual learning platform. With access to the online classroom available 24/7, you are free to work around your personal and professional schedules, as long as you adhere to set deadlines, usually on a weekly basis. Technologies such as chat, streaming video, and web conferencing can also help to make the curriculum more interactive for students.
What’s Next for Health Informatics Associate Degree Holders?
Graduates are prepared with the technical skills and industry knowledge to sit for professional certification. The most common certification for this degree level is the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam administered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Once certified, job opportunities are available with hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and other health care facilities. These jobs will entail managing, maintaining, and reviewing patient records. Technicians will use electronic medical records software to track patients’ information, verify accuracy, and assist with insurance claims. They also work to ensure privacy and security when it comes to the storage and retrieval of health records.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the demand for medical records and health information technicians is expected to grow by 21% from 2010 to 2020. The mean annual wage for workers in this occupation was $35,920 in 2011. Please note, actual starting pay and job availability can vary based on a number of factors. Students who complete this degree can also go on to obtain a bachelor’s degree as well.