The health care industry generates thousands of exabytes of data each year. While that currently represents a relatively small share of the “global enterprise datasphere,” according to an International Data Corporation report, data generation in medicine and health research is increasing at a breakneck pace. This data includes not only electronic health records, or EHRs, but also digital information gleaned from diagnostic imagery, real-time vital sign monitoring systems, drug interaction and side effects tracking, clinical trials and practice management software.
Health informatics is the discipline broadly focused on the many applications of the vast quantities of data generated by the health care industry. In the hands of health informaticists—also known as informaticians—insights gleaned from health and medical research data can streamline operations in health care settings, improve the quality of health care delivery, ensure new drugs and devices are safe and improve patient outcomes. Data can do all that and more in medicine because health informatics professionals are experts in information management and information systems analysis, database design and engineering, programming, health care IT and analytics, and data science.
Given the breadth of the applications of health care data and of this discipline, it should come as no surprise that becoming an informaticist takes advanced training. The Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) is the gold standard graduate degree for informaticians. Students in these programs gain not only the technical skills to manage data acquisition, organization, storage and analysis, but also the medical knowledge they need to do it in medical practices, health networks, insurance companies, research labs and public health organizations.
If you’re looking into investing in an MS in Health Informatics, you may already work in health care—as a provider or on the business side. Or maybe you are an IT professional inspired to change health care delivery for the better with data analytics. You might even be a career switcher from outside health care or computing, intrigued by the abundance of master’s in health informatics jobs. Whatever your motivations, a Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) from the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) can enhance your skills and expand your career options.
MSHI candidates learn about everything from the legal and ethical issues surrounding the handling of medical records to the management of health care information systems to the data science and computer science principles used to collect, organize, and analyze data culled from digital information systems used in health settings. The core curriculum in the University of Pittsburgh’s 100% online MSHI program covers topics related to business management, medicine, data science, leadership and ethics.
The MS in Health Informatics course list includes:
- Anatomy, Physiology, Pathophysiology, Pharmacology, and Medical Terminology
- Practical Statistics and Programming Using Python and R
- Health Vocabulary, Terminology, and Classification Systems
- Health Information and the Health Care System
- Foundations of Health Informatics
- Security, Privacy, Legal, and Ethical Issues in Health Information Systems
- Talent Management and Human Resources
- Leadership and Project Management
- Data Science in Health Informatics
- Data Analytics and Machine Learning in Health Science
- Financial Management and Health Care Reimbursement
- Database Design and Big Data Analytics
- Digital Health
Additionally, students choose from among four career-focused tracks: General Health Informatics, Data Science, Health Care Supervision and Management, and the Registered Health Care Information Administrator track designed to prepare MSHI candidates to sit for the RHIA exam.
Learning outcomes are quantifiable skills and measurable competencies students acquire in an academic program usually applicable in their professional lives. Top informatics master’s programs like the online MSHI offered by Pitt SHRS prepare degree candidates to step into master’s in health informatics jobs by designing curricula around career-specific learning outcomes.
Pitt MSHI graduates emerge from the program able to:
- Communicate effectively with health industry stakeholders—including clinicians, specialists and vendors—using industry-specific and technical language
- Collect data using health care IT systems, research and analyze the data sets, and interpret results to support clinical and business decision-making
- Apply statistical methods and programming tools in data science for health care and medical research applications
- Leverage machine learning procedures and tools
- Assess access, quality of care, clinical outcomes, cost, patient satisfaction, and engagement throughout the health care system
- Develop data-driven tech-based and business solutions to improve the delivery and quality of patient care
- Understand the unique security, privacy, legal and ethical concerns surrounding health information systems and digital medical records
- Lead teams and head up projects confidently
- Choose practical digital health solutions to address specific health or health care issues
- Adapt as the health care delivery and health care technology landscape inevitably changes
According to the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, informaticist “was once considered an ‘exotic’ career for those in health sciences who were passionate about computation (or for those in quantitative sciences who were passionate about health sciences) [but] has become an essential profession that is impacting health care and biomedical science in an unprecedented way.”
The impact of health informatics careers is evident in both clinical and non-clinical areas of medicine. Informaticists have developed technologies that:
- Help cancer patients practice self-care to improve clinical outcomes
- Promote stronger provider-patient relationships across diverse populations
- Prevent medical errors that lead to adverse drug events in hospitals
- Enhance public health surveillance to identify emerging epidemics
- Give consumers more control over their health care
Health informatics is a rapidly evolving and fast-growing industry full of opportunity for those with the expertise to become a part of it. Masters in health informatics jobs typically fall into three silos: analytical, technological and managerial.
Informaticists in analytical roles are responsible for capturing, analyzing and reporting on data to support patient care, administrative decisions, or medical and public health research. Analytical roles in health informatics include:
- Health data scientist
- Health informatics data analyst
- Clinical informatics analyst
- Clinical informatics specialist
- Health informatics business analyst
- Medical research analyst
Technology-focused informatics careers often involve designing, configuring and managing the local or cloud infrastructure administrators and providers use to collect, organize and utilize health care data. Tech roles in health informatics include:
- Health informatics consultant
- Information systems analyst
- EHR implementation specialist
- Health care information technician
- Health IT project manager
- Product manager
- Privacy officer
- Health information technician
Health informatics careers at the managerial and executive levels can involve working directly with data, overseeing those who work with data, and facilitating communication between the technical teams working with information and the providers and researchers who rely on the insights found in it. Managerial roles in health informatics include:
- Director of health informatics
- Director of research informatics
- Clinical informatics coordinator
- Clinical informatics director
- Health information manager
- Health data resource manager
- Vice president of health informatics
- Chief medical information officer
An MS in Health Informatics from Pitt SHRS is an asset no matter where you are in your career when you apply. The program welcomes doctors, nurses, and allied health practitioners, as well as IT professionals, data analysts, businesspeople and career switchers. An MSHI is also a transformative degree regardless of how you earn it—especially at a school like the University of Pittsburgh where the online health informatics program is identical to the program offered on campus. Students choose from among the same concentrations, take the same courses with the same nationally and globally renowned faculty, and earn the same degree in the same amount of time (16 to 24 months). They can also earn one of four professional certificates while pursuing an MSHI.
- Health Data Analytics
- Health Information Cybersecurity
- Leadership in Health Informatics
- Revenue Cycle Management
Pitt’s MS in Health Informatics graduates are sought after by hospitals, medical practices, health care startups, government agencies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers. They work in health care organizations like Allegheny Health Network and Loma Linda University Medical Center, insurers like Cigna and Gateway Health, and health information technology firms like Epic Systems Corporation and HM Health Solutions. More importantly, demand continues to outstrip the supply of qualified informaticists, and chances are demand will continue growing as more organizations in medicine, health research and medical research see how valuable easily accessible, minable data can be. Earning a health informatics master’s degree is a smart and straightforward way to gain the skills you’ll need to launch a career in this dynamic multidisciplinary field.