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Overview of an Associates in Healthcare Informatics
The field of healthcare informatics refers to the management, analysis, and reporting of all data and information used in healthcare systems and operations. This includes medical clinics, hospitals, healthcare providers, health insurance providers, and medical research facilities. Each one should have the goal of using the data only to improve the delivery of patient care for the best patient health outcomes. For you, this means you’ll learn to turn the data in these systems into useful information that helps each of these entities to improve the care of each patient while improving system efficiencies and fiscal choices. Not only are some of the positions you can earn remote-based, but you can also earn an online associate degree in healthcare informatics or a degree with online or distance learning components.
Health information technicians do most of their work when technology systems and databases are created and the work is ongoing as they are maintained and new data is stored. Informatics professionals recommend solutions and collect, store, and access medical data for use by those in the medical practice. In your classes, you’ll learn to understand and use medical records and healthcare information systems and their data interfaces for your employer. Beginning at the online or traditional associate degree level, you can advance as far as you choose in health informatics and information technology. There are even online bachelor's and master's availabe in the field for those looking to improve their education while they continue working.
Courses in an associate of health informatics degree might include the following subjects. These programs are often available as online associate degree programs as well as with on-campus Associate of Health Informatics degree options.
- Health Informatics and Information Management
- Nursing Informatics
- Medical Records and Health Information Systems
- Health Information Technology
- Healthcare Systems and Operations
- Paitent Health
- Medical Coding
- And Other Valuable Skills
An online or traditional associate degree program in health informatics or health information management prepares students for healthcare professions and may lead to careers as a registered health information technician (RHIT) as well as allowing for career advancement into health information management positions.
During an online or on-campus associate degree program focused on health informatics and information technology, you’ll be exposed to a wide set of health information, information technology, and computer science, allowing you to gain all the knowledge you need to earn your degree and launch a fulfilling career in a variety of healthcare professions. The virtual focus of the degree is part of why it translates so well to an online format. You’ll have the skills you need to translate medical language into the codes that allow you to preserve and analyze data using health information systems and medical records. You’ll be able to help with reimbursement from insurance companies and through your tech skills and assist with healthcare decisions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that health informatics specialist positions and health information technicians will grow about 13% between 2016 and 2026, which makes this field's growth average faster than for all other occupations. Because of the aging of the Baby Boomer population, medical services will be in high demand for several years, meaning your career choice will be a good one and you'll leave your health informatics degree program with valuable skills. And, with the increase in online or remote work, finding a job should be easier than ever as well.
If you enter an online or traditional college program accredited by The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), then you will learn from expert faculty.
Along with the pros come a few drawbacks.
If you stop with the Associate of Science in Health Informatics degree, you may not be able to achieve the right certification that will allow you to progress in your field. If you choose to move ahead with a bachelor’s degree program, then at graduation, you’ll be able to sit the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) examination. At the associate level, you’ll only be able to hold the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification, which means you won’t be able to do administrative work or manage healthcare information systems. You may miss out on career opportunities in healthcare professions that you may otherwise be qualified for. Online learning can help you gain more education while you work, but even online courses still take a lot of time.
Lacking a bachelor’s or even a graduate’s degree in healthcare informatics and information management sets you up to miss out on promotions. While you will be working in the informatics field in a medical profession, a more-advanced education will opens those career advancement doors.
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Certificate Vs. Associate's
Why cast this as one vs. the other? Why not get both your associate degree in healthcare informatics and a certificate? This way, you expand your knowledge, making it more likely you’ll be able to land the job you want.
Keep in mind that, if you earn a certificate in a health informatics specialization, then you may be able to work in additional healthcare environments.
In the associate degree courses, half of your classes with be on medical topics while the other half will be on technology, data, coding and legal/ethical aspects. In a certificate program, almost all classes will cover technology and legal/ethical considerations.
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What Healthcare Informatics Associate Degrees are Available Online?
- Online Associate of Applied Science in Healthcare Informatics (AAS-HI):
You’ll learn how to use technology as your employer works to improve patient outcomes. You’ll be able to work in one of several medical settings.
- Online Associate of Science Degree - Computer Support Technician:
If you have a technical background, you may be able to work as an application developer or designer. You may work as a system analyst, consultant, or entrepreneur. You may also be in demand as a quality improvement analyst or an evaluation specialist. These may be more easily accessible through online learning than applied science degrees, if only because they are more common.
- Online Associate in Health Information Management:
In this role, you combine information technology, management, medicine, finance, and law in your daily work. You may operate computer information systems and code diagnoses and procedures for reimbursement.
- Online Associate in Science, Health Information Technology:
You’ll learn about the practices and processes used to interpret medical documentation, so you can meet the demands of the paper-to-electronic transmission. You’ll develop a solid grasp of the fundamentals of health science, along with health law, database management, health information technology, and other skills. Again, the focus on technology makes this an excellent option for online learning.
- Online Associate of Applied Science, Health Informatics and Information Technology:
In your courses, you’ll learn about how informational science, computer technology, and healthcare all combine in this profession. The federal government mandated the implementation of electronic health records.
Before applying to the healthcare informatics program in your chosen college, you may be required to already be a student. You should qualify for admission to the program, based on:
- Successful completion of all required developmental courses
- Graduation from high school or achievement of your GED
- Successful completion of any general education courses, with a grade of C or better
- Completion of an admission application for some schools
- Earning a specified GPA within the program of your choice
- Submission of any previous college transcripts to the program of your choice
How long does it take to earn a Healthcare Informatics Associates Online?
Depending on the term designation at your school (term, quarter, semester), you may spend about 18 to 24 months in your education program. You may be required to spend the full amount of time in your classes. At this level, the program is rigorous, and you’ll need to take all of the time allotted to the entire healthcare informatics program if you want to learn everything. If you already have some experience in this field, some of your required practicum hours may be waived and it may be easier to complete the program 100% online. Some schools require about 40 hours of practicum time to satisfy this requirement.
Potential Careers in Healthcare Informatics with an Associates
- Health Information Technician
In this job, you’ll validate patient database information along with abstract data to satisfy reimbursement purposes or for research needs. You’ll collect and organize data from medical offices or patients, then provide any pertinent analysis that may be needed.
Average annual salary - $35,300
- Medical Biller and Coder
You support every healthcare provider you work with. By properly coding each medical procedure completed on each patient, you enable the practice, hospital, or other medical provider to collect payments for services provided. Using universal identifiers, you assign a code to each diagnosis and procedure.
Average annual salary – $42,600
- Charge Auditor
This role is responsible for helping to maintain hospital compliance for billing and coding. If you have prior experience in billing and coding, with a focus on CDM, this will assist you tremendously. You are responsible for training staff in coding and charging practices and policies; all inpatient and outpatient charge description documents; report review monitoring charging practices, identifying issues and reviewing charge descriptions to verify compliance.
Average annual salary – $56,700
- Information Access/Disclosure Specialist
Your role is to provide different types of information to the correct parties for your organization. You’ll facilitate data as you follow specific guidelines and regulations, protecting patient confidentiality. You’ll also provide high-quality customer service when a patient approaches with questions.
Average annual salary – $35,100
You gather data and related records for your organization so they can be examined. You also answer questions intended to minimize risk to your employer, most often in the case of a potential lawsuit. You’ll collect, organize, and deliver official documentation to the appropriate agencies.
Average annual salary – $49,000
Options to Advance
After you’ve been in your position for a time, you may think that it’s time to move up in your field. This may mean that it’s time for you to return to school and earn an bachelor’s degree in healthcare informatics. The demand for health informatics professionals only continues to rise. Now that medical providers are required to convert paper records to electronic, each organization will need qualified and certified experts. With your online bachelor’s degree and/or certification, your path upward is clear.
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The next step for you is to move into your master’s program. At this level, you’ll use healthcare information for both research and practical reasons, share your knowledge with medical professionals and make decisions that positively affect healthcare. A doctorate in health informatics allows you to earn an advanced degree in the field. It is intended for executive-level professionals who want to earn a terminal, applied degree in this field.
Best Associate of Science in Healthcare Informatics Programs
Baker College administrators know that the only way it will be successful is to help its students to succeed. Administrators and faculty know that it’s hard for students to put their lives and jobs to the side while they earn their degrees.
- Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology (AAS-HIT)
Lincoln College of New England
Lincoln College strives to emphasize degrees in careers and applied knowledge. It its daily work and mission, Lincoln and its credentialed faculty help students meet their educational goals so they will be ready to contribute to society.
- Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Management (AAS-HIM)
Seminole State College
Seminole State College started in 1966 with some portable classrooms located in an old citrus grove. Today, it has six campus sites scattered throughout Seminole County, with an enrollment nearing 30,000. The college adapts to the needs of the community, meeting its needs.
- Associate in Arts in Health Informatics and Health Information Technology (AA-HI, HIT)
- Associate of Science, Health Information Technology (AS-HIT)
Ivy Tech Community College
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Ivy Tech was founded in 1963, being known as Indiana Vocational Technical College. Between that time and now, Ivy Tech has grown to offer more than 150 programs in each one of its campuses. The School of Information Technology is its own campus.
- Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology (AAS-HIT)
Minnesota State Community and Technical College
Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) works hard to meet the individual needs of each of its students on every one of its campuses. Its vision is “A Success Story for Every Student,” and the faculty takes this personally.
- Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology/Coding (AAS-HIT/C)
Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Healthcare Informatics
Neosho County Community College
Neosho County Community College has been the first community college in student success in Kansas for three years. Its class sizes are deliberately kept small for the benefit of each student; students have flexible class scheduling, a committed faculty, and the opportunity for financial aid.
- Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology (AAS-HIT)
Community College of Baltimore County
Baltimore, Maryland (3 main campuses)
In 1957, CCBC opened its doors for the first time. It offered high-quality and affordable education, giving area residents the opportunity to improve their lives and those of others around them. CCBC offers degrees and workplace certification programs.
- Associate of Applied Science, Health Informatics and Information Technology (AAS-HIIT)
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Borough of Manhattan Community College
New York City, New York
Borough of Manhattan Community College, because it is located in the heart of the city, is able to draw on the passion, ideas, and innovation that drive NYC. The college reflects vibrancy, culture, and promise to each student.
- Associate of Applied Science, Health Information Technology (AAS-HIT)
Pitt Community College
Greenville, North Carolina
In its mission statement, Pitt Community College says it educates and empowers students for success. Cultivating a culture of innovation and excellence, PCC strives to work alongside the community and workforce. PCC provides access to exciting learning opportunities that encourage students to develop strong careers.
- Associate of Applied Science-Health Information Technology (AAS-HIT)
San Diego Mesa College
San Diego, California
San Diego Mesa College has committed to several student initiatives for the benefit of the student body. These include global awareness, diversity, and guided pathways. As a Hispanic Serving Institution, SDMC helps its minority students to realize their dreams.
- Associate of Science in Health Information Technology (AS-HIT)
Frequently Asked Questions
Will an associate degree be enough to get a good job with solid pay in this field?
Health informatics is a relatively new role. However, it has continued to increase constantly since it became a commonly required role in hospitals and other medical facilities. Recent changes to the law in how health records were to be maintained have only increased the need for these professionals even further. Part of the outcome of those changes is that health informatics professionals are in high demand across the country, which means that you should be able to find a position once you finish your associate degree without much trouble. But will it pay you well? The answer to that is, of course, a bit trickier. You can always earn more money by gaining a higher education or more experience in your field, but this question is about earning money at the associate degree level. And the answer is yes. You can earn solid pay even if you only earn an associate degree. Some of the jobs that offer surprisingly high salaries include those for transcriptionists, coding specialists, and other clerical support workers. These jobs are in demand, don’t require a bachelor’s degree, and pay competitive salaries.