Graduate Certificate Programs in Health Informatics and Health Information Management
Graduate certificate programs in health informatics are postbaccalaureate academic training programs that are offered by accredited colleges and universities. These programs are designed to prepare college graduates and mid-career professionals who have a bachelor’s, master’s, and/or doctoral degree for working with the information technology (IT) and computer systems that are used by healthcare organizations, hospitals, medical centers, clinics, biomedical research laboratories, and other healthcare sector enterprises to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health services. Students in health informatics graduate certificate programs generally complete four or five advanced courses that have direct practical applications in health information storage, management, and security.
Students who complete a graduate certificate can gain the training needed to qualify for work in the field of health informatics in one year or less, which is roughly half the time it takes to earn a full master’s degree in health informatics. In addition, while graduate certificate programs do not culminate in the conferral of a graduate degree, the credits earned in a certificate program may transfer if and when a student opts to pursue a master’s degree in health informatics or a related field.
Health Informatics Explained
Health informatics refers to the integration and application of information technology (IT) systems to improve quality, efficiency, and outcomes across the healthcare sector, particularly but not exclusively in areas that involve patient care and the use of electronic medical record (EMR) systems. Health informatics and health information management (HIM) professionals work throughout the healthcare system, coordinating the use of medical IT systems, managing the safe storage and transmission of critical health data, assuring the security of EMR databases and other stores of private health information, and helping physicians, nurses, researchers, and other clinicians and health system administrators access data and navigate data storage systems and computer networks.
While the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) make some theoretical distinctions between health informatics (HI) and health information management (HIM), both require technical knowledge of digital information and communication networks, database systems, and analytics tools, as well an understanding of the American healthcare system, patient privacy issues, and legal and regulatory compliance concerns. Similarly, health informatics and HIM professionals must have familiarity with biomedical terminology and have the communication skills to assist those who do not have an IT background with informatics and information management systems and technologies.
Thus, in practice and in formal training, health informatics and HIM are largely interchangeable designations for an area of expertise in which biomedical, computer science, and IT skills are applied to the collection, storage, protection, analysis, and explanation of health and medical data.
Identifying and Classifying Health Informatics Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduate certificate programs in health informatics and HIM have several distinguishing characteristics. They are postbaccalaureate programs that are designed for college graduates, graduate students, and mid-career professionals, and therefore they require students to have completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. They are non-degree programs that culminate in a certificate of completion rather than a degree.
These programs typically consist of a relatively small number of courses that are often part of a master’s program offered by the same college or university. The curriculum, as detailed in the section below, is designed to provide current and aspiring healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills required to work with the health IT and database systems used by hospital, medical centers, and other biomedical enterprises.
Health Informatics Graduate Certificate Coursework
While specific requirements vary by program and by school, health informatics graduate certificate programs generally offer a curriculum designed to ensure that program graduates have a command of medical terminology, understand the structure of the American healthcare system, and are informed of the legal and regulatory compliance issues pertaining to patient and health data. These programs also train students to manage the database and IT systems commonly used in hospitals, clinics, biomedical research facilities, and other healthcare organizations.
Graduate certificates typically consist of four or five courses that offer training in the effective use of medical, nursing, patient, and health information systems, including EHR technologies, and instruction in best practices for using health data to improve patient care, reduce costs, enhance efficiency, and identify and track patterns of illness and disease. For example, health informatics graduate certificate programs may require students to complete the following types of courses, or offer these courses as electives:
- Principles of Health Information Management and Informatics
- Biomedical Science and Health Information Technology
- Electronic Health Records (EHR) Systems
- Healthcare Quality and Enhanced Patient Outcomes
- Healthcare Knowledge for Health Informatics
- Health Informatics Privacy, Security, and Ethics
- Health Data Analytics
Online Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics and HIM
Many schools now offer graduate certificate programs, including health informatics and HIM graduate certificate programs, using online learning tools and technologies. This allows programs to reach qualified students who do not live or work within commuting range of a school’s physical campus, and provides working professionals with a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional, campus-based programs. Online programs also give students who do not live near a college or university that offers programs in health informatics access to graduate studies without having to relocate.
Online graduate certificate programs in health informatics offer all or most of their instruction via learning management systems (LMSs), which is a generic term for interactive, internet-based instructional platforms that support the streaming of live and pre-recorded lectures, virtual classroom sessions, and other educational assets. Online instruction that utilizes web conferencing software for live lectures is referred to as synchronous instruction. Programs that incorporate synchronous sessions require students to be logged on to a program’s LMS at specified times in order to view lectures and participate in class sessions in real-time.
Online instruction that does not have a real-time component, such as pre-recorded lectures that can be accessed 24-7 by logging on to a program’s LMS, is referred to as asynchronous instruction. While all online programs have readings and assignments that students complete asynchronously on their own time by set due dates, not all programs have required synchronous sessions. Students who would like to earn their certificate online but who would prefer a program that is most similar to traditional in-person classroom instruction should look for programs that use synchronous instruction. Students who need maximum flexibility due to professional and/or personal obligations that make attending live sessions at specific times during the week difficult should look for programs that mainly use asynchronous instruction.
While most online health informatics graduate certificate programs offer all of their coursework online, some programs require students to attend a limited number of campus visits. These campus visits are generally short in duration (three to seven days) and are an opportunity for students to meet face-to-face with instructors and receive hands-on instruction. However, traveling to a school’s campus may be inconvenient for some students, so it is important to review program requirements carefully prior to applying. Programs that require more than three campus visits per year are classified by GraduateCertificates.com as hybrid or blended programs, and not as online programs, because they may not be practical for students who do not live near the school offering the program. However, blended/hybrid programs often represent a more convenient alternative to fully campus-based programs as they offer some or most of their instruction online.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Health Informatics and HIM
Each of the accredited schools listed below offers an online health informatics/HIM graduate certificate program. These programs provide a representative overview of the types of programs that are currently offered in an online format.
Boston University (BU) offers online Master of Science (MS) programs in Computer Information Systems and Applied Data Analytics, both of which give students the option of a Health Informatics specialization. The four-course, 16-credit Health Informatics specialization is also available as a stand-alone, online Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics program. Students are required to hold a bachelor’s degree in order to enroll in the certificate program, which is fully online and does not require any campus visits. Credits completed as part of the certificate program can be transferred to the Computer Information Systems and Applied Data Analytics MS programs should a student in the certificate program opt to enroll in one of the two master’s programs. For more information on the certificate program, visit BU’s Online Learning at www.bu.edu/online.
The University of Scranton offers an online Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics program through its Panuska College of Professional Studies, Kania School of Management, and College of Arts and Sciences. The 12-credit program, which requires students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and recommends prior coursework in health science and computer information technology, consists of four courses drawn from the University of Scranton’s online Master of Science (MS) in Health Informatics program. Applicants to the certificate program who do not have a background in healthcare or IT can prepare for the program by taking two preparatory courses in healthcare computer IT systems. The University of Scranton graduate certificate program is fully online and does not require students to attend any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit the University of Scranton at elearning.scranton.edu.
The University of Missouri offers and online Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics through its School of Medicine. This postbaccalaureate certificate program consists of four courses that confer a total of 12 graduate credits. The program is designed for physicians, nurses, healthcare managers, information system designers, IT consultants, and others interested in working to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health services using informatics technologies. All four the program’s courses draw on an MS in Health Informatics program offered by the University of Missouri, and all 12 credits from the fully online certificate program can be applied to the MS program if and when a student opts to pursue further graduate studies in health informatics. For more information of the program, visit the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine at medicine.missouri.edu.
More Graduate Certificates in Health Informatics
|Boston University||Online; Boston, MA||Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics|
|Drexel University||Online||Certificate in Healthcare Informatics|
|George Mason University||Online; Fairfax, VA||Health Informatics and Data Analytics Graduate Certificate|
|Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis||Online; Indianapolis, IN||Clinical Informatics Graduate Certificate|
|Temple University||Online||Health Informatics Graduate Certificate|
|The University of Iowa||Iowa City, IA||Health Informatics Certificate|
|The University of Kansas||Online||Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics|
|The University of Missouri||Online; Columbia, MO||Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics|
|The University of Scranton||Online||Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics|
|The University of Tennessee, Knoxville||Online||Health Informatics Certificate|
|University of Massachusetts Lowell||Online||Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics|
|University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics|
|University of New England||Online||Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||Chapel Hill, NC||Graduate Certificate in Public Health Informatics|
|University of North Carolina at Charlotte||Online; Charlotte, NC||Health Informatics and Analytics Graduate Certificate Program|
|University of San Diego||Online||Certificate in Health Care Informatics|
|University of South Florida||Online||Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics|
|University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston||Online; Houston, TX||Graduate Certificate in Public Health Informatics|
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