Online Health Informatics Associate Degree
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Earning a health informatics associate degree online may interest students who enjoy working with computers and plan to pursue careers in healthcare. Health informatics professionals organize and manage hardcopy and electronic documents for doctors' offices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. These specialists improve patient care by increasing the accuracy, longevity, and accessibility of healthcare records.
Students in health informatics programs learn to archive and access medical and insurance records using filing technologies and classification systems. Most associate degree holders obtain full-time jobs in administrative roles and work directly with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a strong job outlook for health informatics professionals. For example, the BLS projects the number of positions for medical records and health information technicians to increase by 13% between 2016 and 2026 — a rate nearly double the national average for all occupations. According to the BLS, medical records and health information technicians earned a median annual salary of more than $40,000 in 2018.
This guide provides information about admissions requirements and coursework for health informatics associate programs. The sections below also cover salaries and possible careers for graduates who have earned a health informatics associate degree online.
Earning Your Associate in Health Informatics Online
Many distance learners enjoy the flexibility of online programs, which allow students to complete coursework from virtually any location as long as they have internet access. Additionally, many schools deliver courses asynchronously, allowing for increased scheduling flexibility. Online students can often work at their own pace while managing personal and career obligations.
Online degree tracks may also be more affordable than on-campus programs. Distance learners can save money by eliminating the need to commute to campus and pay for daily expenses such as parking.
Online health informatics programs rarely involve on-campus components or internships, and distance students can typically complete any in-person components, such as taking proctored exams, at a location near their home.
How Long Does It Take to Earn Your Health Informatics Associate Degree Online?
The number of required credits may vary slightly by program, but most associate tracks consist of about 60 credits. Full-time students pursuing a health informatics associate degree online typically graduate in two years. However, degree completion times depend on a student's schedule, availability, and workload.
Many schools do not offer every required class each term, which means students must plan their course of study ahead of time to finish degree requirements on their desired timeline. Additionally, programs with in-person learning experiences may take slightly longer to complete.
Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in Health Informatics
Each program maintains its own application requirements; however, associate tracks tend to be the most accessible type of higher education programs. Applicants planning to pursue a health informatics associate degree online must hold a high school diploma or GED, and many programs require or prefer a minimum GPA — usually between 2.5 and 3.0. Additionally, many schools require applicants to submit standardized test scores, such as SAT or ACT scores.
Some health informatics programs require prerequisite courses, such as anatomy, computer applications, medical terminology, and English composition. Associate programs may waive prerequisite requirements for students who have pertinent academic or professional experience. Accepted students who have not yet completed prerequisites must typically complete these courses before beginning the core health informatics curriculum.
Courses in an Online Associate in Health Informatics Program
While earning a health informatics associate degree online, students explore how healthcare professionals organize, store, and manage health information and patient records. Most associate programs cover topics like security practices, payment methods and reimbursement, statistics and health reports, retrieval programming, and healthcare records classification systems.
Online students complete assignments that help them develop problem-solving, interpersonal, and communication skills. Participants also learn how to handle sensitive information and improve patient care.
Introduction to Health Informatics: This entry-level course helps students understand foundational concepts in the field and prepares learners for advanced interdisciplinary classes. The course covers the history of health data management; innovations in electronic record keeping; and the role of health informatics professionals in public, private, and nonprofit facilities and organizations.
Database Models and Applications: Students in this course gain an understanding of database principles and computer applications commonly used in the field. Coursework covers topics like database recovery and security, relational database design, SQL database queries, and relational models. Students engage with emerging technologies and methods, such as data warehousing and data mining.
Business Management in Health Informatics: Distance students explore business management principles and practices common in the health informatics field. The course covers foundational skills, such as budget managing, technology evaluation, and basic management techniques. Coursework also emphasizes financial management, project management, construction of RPF processes, and business communication methods.
Health Informatics and Public Policies: This class focuses on the conceptual and theoretical basics of health informatics and public policy. Students examine healthcare reform, law, grant writing, competency development, and market structures. The class also covers the implementation of institutional policies, current legislative and public policy initiatives, and electronic-based privacy and security issues.
Ethical and Legal Issues in Health Informatics: This class focuses primarily on electronic health records and related ethical and legal issues. Coursework examines patient privacy, public disclosure to third-party payers, and large-capacity storage. Students explore topics related to ethical standards in the field, and learners go over modern case studies and practical examples.
Job and Salary Outlook for Online Associate in Health Informatics Graduates
Professionals with a health informatics associate degree can pursue a variety of jobs in the healthcare industry. Popular careers for graduates include roles as medical records and health information technicians, medical assistants, and medical transcriptionists. Health informatics professionals typically have strong analytical, interpersonal, and technical skills. They work with complex computer systems and sometimes deal with patients directly. As such, health informatics professionals must exercise discretion and adhere to privacy standards and industry protocols.
Medical Records and Health Information Technician
These technicians organize, store, and manage health information. They ensure the accuracy, security, and accessibility of hardcopy files and electronic data. These professionals follow strict classification systems and ensure that patients' medical histories, treatment plans, and insurance information are readily available to physicians and other healthcare professionals.
Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in hospitals, doctors' offices, and other types of healthcare facilities. In addition to managing administrative responsibilities, these assistants may work directly with patients. Medical assistants with additional training or certification may measure vital signs and take blood pressure readings, assist physicians during examinations, prepare blood samples for lab tests, and administer routine injections.
Sometimes referred to as healthcare documentation specialists, transcriptionists translate voice recordings into typed or written documents. These professionals must understand current speech recognition technologies and transcription practices. Additionally, transcriptionists need a thorough understanding of medical terminology, abbreviations, and other medical information to ensure the accuracy of documents.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accreditation for a Health Informatics Degree Online Program
Accreditation ensures that a college or university meets certain standards related to academic quality. Additionally, accreditation signals that an institution confers valid credentials that are worth a student's time, money, and effort. At the institutional level, schools in the U.S. can hold regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation is the older and more prestigious type. Regionally accredited institutions typically offer a variety of degree types, including undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Alternatively, career, vocational, and trade schools often hold national accreditation. These programs tend to be less expensive than regionally accredited schools and often require less liberal arts coursework. However, regionally accredited schools rarely accept credits earned at nationally accredited institutions. Additionally, a degree from a nationally accredited school may not qualify graduates to pursue certains forms of licensure.
Individual departments or programs can also receive field-specific accreditation. Programmatic accreditation provides an additional layer of quality assurance. However, not all programs pursue this type of accreditation. The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) accredits some of the best health informatics programs.
Online Associate in Health Informatics Scholarships
Several institutions and private organizations award scholarships to students pursuing health informatics associate degrees online and on campus. Students can search for scholarships from local, regional, and national organizations. Learners should consider applying for any scholarships for which they qualify; since scholarships do not need to be repaid, they are an ideal source of funding to help cover tuition, fees, and other expenses.
Who Can Apply: Students pursuing an associate degree can apply for this merit-based scholarship. Applicants must attend a health informatics, health information management, or health information technology program accredited by CAHIIM.
Who Can Apply: This organization offers several scholarships each year for students pursuing careers in health information management and related fields. Applicants must be pursuing an associate degree, reside in Tennessee, and have completed at least 50% of their program requirements.
Who Can Apply: FHIMA offers scholarships to students pursuing an undergraduate degree in health information or a related field from a CAHIIM-accredited program. Students must be members of the American Health Information Management Association and hold a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Who Can Apply: The New Jersey Health Information Management Association offers this award to one associate or bachelor's student each year. Applicants must be studying health informatics, reside in New Jersey, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and plan to sit for the health information credentialing exam upon graduation.
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