It wasn’t too long ago that doctors kept their records on paper and stored them in a back room of their office. The problem with this was pretty obvious. If you switched doctors, moved to another town, or ended up in the emergency room, your medical records might very well have been inaccessible. What’s more, insurance claims could take weeks or even months to mail and process, leaving the patient stuck with the bill in the meantime. Of course, the staggering pace of development in computing technology and information networking has changed what’s possible for keeping – and synchronizing – health records. And now, the Affordable Care Act has mandated that Electronic Health Records (EHR) become the American standard for health care providers large and small.
These changes have not only affected how patients’ information is kept, and shared, among providers and insurers. They have also created a fast-growing and high-paying career field in health informatics. As Charles Friedman, director of the health informatics program at the University of Michigan, told U.S. News and World Report, “This field is exploding. Access to health information on the Web is taking off at a meteoric pace. It’s creating enormous employment opportunities.”
If you’re interested in a career that combines technology and IT skills, medical knowledge, and policy fields such as patient privacy law and insurance regulations, medical informatics may be right for you. Plus, jobs in health informatics are both in demand and highly paid. According to the job-search site Simply Hired, average salaries for the field are around $64,000 a year. For more information on the career field or for networking opportunities, check out organizations like the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
While a number of universities have begun offering programs in health informatics, you may not be willing or able to uproot your life (or your family’s) to attend school full-time on campus. And you may be wondering if you can afford to make the investment in education that would open the door to this field. That’s why we’ve ranked the 10 most affordable online bachelor’s degrees in health informatics. Some of these programs do have an on-the-job training component that can be filled through a local internship. However, their course content is delivered online, making it ideal for working adults.
What are the most affordable bachelor’s in health informatics?
All of our ranked programs are regionally accredited, but not all are geared towards the highest level of professional accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). If you’re looking for a degree that leads directly to professional licensure through AHIMA without additional work requirements, check for that second accreditation before committing to a school.
Western Governors' University
Total Cost: $23,120
While Western Governors’ University has only been in existence for twenty years, it has already built an extensive portfolio of online degree programs. This nonprofit institution was founded in 1995 by state governors looking to change the way education could better the lives of their citizens. WGU is an all-online, competency-based university, which means their degrees are granted for what students learn rather than how much time they spend in school.
The online bachelor of science degree in health informatics at WGU is open to students from a variety of fields, including health care, business, and other areas of information technology. If you already have an associate’s degree, the time to completion averages 2-2.5 years, while those with no college experience average 4 to 5 years. In the end, though, your progress will depend on your motivation. Along the way, you can also pick up industry certifications in CompTIA Project+ and CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician. Western Governors’ University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Somewhat unusually for an online program, the BS in health informatics degree is also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Its graduates are eligible to take the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam and achieve licensure with no further experience needed, and the current pass rate is an impressive 94%.
University of Wisconsin
Total Cost: $23,400
If you’ve already completed 60 credits of transferrable general coursework, you are eligible to apply to the University of Wisconsin’s bachelor of science program in health information management and technology (HIMT). As the program website explains, there are two tracks available to students within the major:
- The Health Information Management track is intended for those interested in managing health information operations and personnel or using clinical data to improve patient care. It’s also the right concentration for students wishing to take the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification
- The Health Information Technology track is a more technical degree, focused on information systems implementation and operations, health data analysis, and the operation of clinical IT systems used to capture, analyze, and report health data.
The University of Wisconsin is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The HIMT program, operated under a cooperative agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, is also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), making its graduates eligible to take the RHIA examination.
Total Cost: $23,400
Professionals working in the health informatics field are eligible for Rasmussen College’s online bachelor of science program in health information management. If you already have an associate’s degree in health information technology or management from a CAHIIM-accredited program within the past five years, or if you have an associate’s degree in any field and hold a current RHIT credential, you’re eligible for Rasmussen College’s accelerated online bachelor’s degree in health information management. In as little as 18 months, you can finish your degree and move on to the next stage in your career.
In your classes, you’ll learn about systems development and management as well as financial analysis in healthcare settings, and build your skills in professional communication and leadership. Then, you’ll apply what you’ve learned in 150 hours of field-based practical experience at an approved site near you. Graduates will be ready to take on a number of management positions including data quality manager, health information manager, and meaningful use specialist.
Rasmussen College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and the online HIM program is also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Students are strongly encouraged to take the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) exam at the end of their program to attain national certification. The instructional staff and program coordinator work with each student to help them prepare for the test, and the examination fee is covered by tuition.
Total Cost: $27,600
Formerly known as Georgia Regents University, Augusta University offers an online bachelor of science degree in health information administration through their College of Allied Health Sciences. This program will prepare you to give health care providers the organized evidence they need to support patient care, insurance reimbursement, teaching, research, quality improvement, and legal matters. Students will learn how health information systems function and interact, how to apply business theory to ensure effective and high-quality work processes, and how to properly manage and safeguard confidential medical records.
The online bachelor’s program is offered in a “2+2” format, which means the first two years (60 credits) of general education requirements can be fulfilled through any accredited college and transferred to Augusta University. After completing 69 credits in the Department of Clinical and Digital Health Sciences, you will be eligible to sit for the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) exam and achieve professional licensure. Prospective students who already have a bachelor’s degree in allied health, nursing, business or healthcare administration, or computer science area also eligible to apply for a one-year post-baccalaureate program that also leads to RHIA certification. Augusta University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the health information administration program is accredited by CAHIIM.
University of Cincinnati
Total Cost: $27,900
Founded in 1819, the University of Cincinnati has long been a leader in education for the health professions. They started the first bachelor’s degree program in nursing and the first emergency medicine training program, and now they have extended that tradition into the field of health informatics. The online bachelor’s degree in health information management at UC combines the resources and faculty of a major research university with the accessibility of distance learning – all at an affordable tuition rate.
The bachelor’s program at UC is intended for students who already hold an associate’s degree and are working in the health information field. Applicants for the program should be either Registered Health Information Technicians or eligible to sit for the RHIT exam. Once admitted, your required coursework will span a range of advanced topics including privacy and legal issues, reimbursement systems, data management, and human resources and quality management. Graduates of this program will be well-equipped to assume leadership positions with their current employer or expand their options for career transitions. The University of Cincinnati is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Southern New Hampshire University
Total Cost: $38,400
Among Southern New Hampshire University’s extensive online offerings is their bachelor of science program in health information management. While some required courses involve the technical aspects of the field such as data management and networking, other requirements focus on broader health care topics including:
- Healthcare reimbursement
- Ethical and legal issues
- Pathophysiology and pharmacology
One practical internship is required, which can either be fulfilled through traditional on-site work or by a hybrid approach that includes on-line simulations. A capstone project concludes the degree, allowing students to synthesize and apply what they have learned over the course of their studies.
Throughout the program, case studies are assigned that allow students to explore the field through real-world applications in health informatics. Graduates will be prepared for management positions in health care institutions, insurance providers, or other similar organization. Southern New Hampshire University is a private, non-profit institution, and it is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Total Cost: $38,460
Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a private not-for-profit college in Burlington, Vermont. Among its online degree programs is an online accelerated bachelor’s degree in health information technology. The accelerated program means that, in addition to the 60 general education credits that can be transferred to your degree, an additional 30 credits for coursework or work experience may be eligible for transfer. This leaves only 30 credit hours that must be completed through Champlain in order to graduate. As a result, the time to completion can vary considerably based on each individual’s transfer situation.
Required upper level coursework for the HIT bachelor’s degree includes 12 classes along with a capstone IT design and analysis project. In addition to technical classes in database management and networking, other courses include:
- Coding and classification
- Health data systems
- Privacy and protection law and regulation
- Project management
Champlain College is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Total Cost: $45,000
From its modest beginnings as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971, Liberty University has multiplied its programs and expanded its reach to become the world’s largest Christian university – and the fifth largest university of any kind in the United States. Much of that growth has come about because of its commitment to online education. And, among its many online degree programs, Liberty offers a bachelor of science in health informatics. Generous transfer policies – including the possibility of transfer credit for work experience, by examination, or for military training – mean you could be finished in a much shorter time frame than the four years it would take to complete 120 credit hours on a traditional schedule.
Thirty credit hours of required upper level classes build students’ advanced IT skills in business application development as well as in management and quality control. Additional coursework specific to the healthcare setting includes pharmacology, healthcare coding and classification, healthcare enterprise systems, and Web architecture and development. After graduation, your career options may include working as a clinical informatics specialist, informatics analyst, director of clinical informatics, or in pharmacy informatics. Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
University of Mississippi Medical Center
Total Cost: $56,160
Located in the state capital of Jackson, the University of Mississippi Medical Center is the only academic health science center serving the state of Mississippi. It enrolls more than 3,000 students in its six health science schools: medicine, nursing, dentistry, health related professions, graduate studies and pharmacy. Within the School of Health Related Professions, UMMC offers an online bachelor of science degree in health informatics and information management (HIIM). Graduates of this program have found employment in a range of settings including hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, home health agencies, health maintenance organizations, insurance agencies, governmental agencies, educational institutions and research centers.
If you’ve completed at least 60 semester hours of academic credit from a regionally accredited institution, including a number of specific prerequisites listed on the website, you’re eligible to apply for this two-year program. Upper level coursework includes classes in database applications, coding and classification, privacy and security, revenue and reimbursement, and quality management. Students already holding RHIT certification are eligible to apply for the ‘2+U’ online HIIM Progression program, which requires a lighter course load (and thus less expense) over the same two-year time period. The University of Mississippi Medical Center is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Total Cost: $58,825
As a predominantly online institution offering graduate degrees in various business, health, technology, and criminal justice fields, Walden University has extensive experience providing degree programs to distance learners. Its more than 50,000 students come from all 50 states as well as abroad, and its degree programs include three online bachelor of science programs that include possible concentrations in health informatics: health studies, public health, and healthcare management.
Each program requires the same number of credits, so the choice between them depends on your particular area of interest. Students looking for a general degree might choose health studies, while those interested in working for government health agencies might opt for public health. Those who aspire to leadership positions within healthcare organizations such as hospitals or similar institutions may be better suited for the healthcare management degree. Walden University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.