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Earn Your Master’s Degree in Health Care Informatics – Online or on Campus

Health care informatics is a rapidly growing, interdisciplinary field that resides at the intersection of computer science, information management, and healthcare. Its purpose is the automation, management and improvement of health information in the support of health care delivery.

University of San Diego’s practical M.S. in Health Care Informatics program prepares you for success with a practical curriculum that develops your technical, programmatic and analytic competencies while addressing contemporary issues in informatics such as population health analysis, clinical documentation and workflow optimization, and data security. The program is cross-disciplinary and draws faculty from healthcare, business, engineering, and computer science to prepare you with the range of skills necessary to take on a leadership role in informatics within your organization, or to apply your highly marketable skills to a new challenge.

USD’s M.S. in Health Informatics is offered in both campus-based and online formats, both of which can be completed in as little as two years.

What You’ll Learn in the M.S. in Health Care Informatics Program

University of San Diego’s MS-HCI integrates healthcare information management,  information technology, health system leadership and business knowledge/skills to prepare you for a variety of health informatics and clinical analytics positions.  You will learn technical skills such as:

  • Design and management of databases
  • Application of information systems to solve clinical problems
  • Workflow design
  • Design for the integration of human/technology systems
  • Advanced leadership skills in project/technology team management
  • Organizational leadership in data and technology management

You’ll also develop key business management and healthcare administration skills, including:

  • Leadership
  • Conflict resolution
  • Financial management
  • Data management
  • Strategic planning
  • Policy development
  • Professional and ethical responsibility

Throughout the program, you’ll create and maintain a portfolio that reflects the knowledge you’ve developed and skills you’ve mastered – preparing you not only for graduation but for demonstrating your expertise to potential employers.

Who Enrolls in the Health Care Informatics Master’s Degree Program?

You don’t need to have health care experience to enroll in the M.S. in Health Care Informatics program. While some of our students are working in the field in a variety of clinical and non-clinical roles, many are transitioning into health informatics without any healthcare background at all. Regardless of your prior professional experience, our program is designed to build from a foundation that will prepare you for future success.

Our student profile includes mostly working professionals from the following roles:

  • Physicians looking to advance into a CMIO role
  • Foreign medical graduates (FMGs) who are not credentialed in the U.S.
  • Nurses and nursing informaticists
  • Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians
  • Other healthcare professionals
  • Health insurance professionals
  • IT/computer science professionals
  • Medical office managers
  • Health information management professionals (including those working in medical billing/revenue cycle, coding, information governance, data integrity, quality improvement, compliance, privacy and security, etc.).
  • Healthcare consultants
  • Public health or non-profit roles

Choose Your Specialized Learning Track

Three distinct program specializations allow you to develop core competencies aligned with your career interests and aspirations. Choose from:

Health Care Informatics (HCI) Track

The Health Care Informatics professional employs technical, analytical, and innovative skills to provide leadership in health care tech­nologies and applications within the context of the health care discipline.

The HCI professional functions as part of the health care team tasked with applying data to solve questions that impact individual patients, populations of patients, and health care delivery systems. They work in an interdis­ciplinary environment that integrates comput­er science, knowledge management, and health care.

The HCI professional applies a variety of tools and methods to automate, organize, and improve the transmission of information to support the delivery of health care. The work informaticists do enables patient care provid­ers to computerize and centralize their patient records, lab results, prescriptions and much more. The goal is to improve medical care by increasing speed and accuracy while reducing errors and costs.

Health Care Analytics (Data Science Track) Track

The Health Care Analytics (HCA) track teaches students to employ the skills of a data scientist, within the context of the health care discipline. The HCA professional functions as a member of the health care team who applies various tools to solve questions that impact individual and large populations of patients and health care delivery systems. Students enrolled in this track will understand health care delivery from the bedside to the board room, and utilize advanced analytics tools combined with programming skills to design unique solutions to solving health care problems.

Health Care Leadership Track

Health care informatics leaders have moved into an era of innovation and con­stant change. Leaders must be able to adapt to the fast-changing environment of the modern technology-driven hospital or clinic. The Health Care Leadership Track prepares individuals with the skills needed in technology, systems management, communication and critical thinking to take on leadership roles in health care organizations.

This unique leadership track has a strong technology and informatics focus that pre­pares graduates to manage complex human and technology systems. Graduates will be pre­pared for roles such as managers, directors, or executives in health care delivery, technol­ogy, informatics, and health care companies.

Why Choose University of San Diego

USD’s M.S. in Health Care Informatics has been certified as an Approved Education Partner by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), meaning it meets rigorous standards for delivering world-class, effective health care and health IT education. The program prepares students to pass industry health IT exams.HIMSS Approved Education Partner Vertical Logo

Additional reasons to select USD include:

  • Top 100 nationally-ranked university (U.S. News and World Report)
  • Program graduates are prepared for certification through HIMSS.
  • Flexibility to earn your degree completely online, or take evening classes at our beautiful San Diego campus.
  • Three specialized learning tracks allow you to align your coursework with your career interests
  • Program is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Complete your degree in as little as 2 years, while continuing to work full time
  • No GRE is required for admission
  • Classes start year-round in January, May and September

Choose Your Program Format to Learn More

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About the MS-HCI

What is Health Care Informatics?

According to the Public Health Informatics Institute, “Informatics is the process by which raw data turns into information and, subsequently, knowledge.” The past decade has been a time of incredible growth for the field of health informatics, fueled in large part by the adoption in 2009 of the federal HITECH Act, which mandated a nationwide transition from old-fashioned paper medical records to electronic health records (EHR). Of course, the adoption of electronic health records, along with advancements in cloud storage and analytics capabilities, has led to far greater availability (and sharability) of health data. In the continually evolving field of health informatics, the goal is to use this data and the insights it produces to:

  • Improve patient care at the individual and clinical level
  • Improve the health of entire populations (for example, by using data to predict and even prevent outbreaks of disease in a particular geographical area)

You can learn more about the practice of Health Informatics, as well as the career potential in the field, by reading this blog post: What is Health Informatics? [Definition + Jobs and Salary Information]

Another good resource is this post: Opportunities in Health Informatics are Vast for Those with a Master’s Degree.

What’s the Difference Between Health Informatics and Nursing Informatics?

Health care informatics is, at a very basic level, the use of information technology to improve patient care. It also covers the broad, overarching discipline of informatics and deals with the application of technology to all areas of health care, from education to research to administration.

Nursing informatics, on the other hand, is a subspecialty of nursing and falls under the broader health informatics umbrella. Nursing informatics deals directly with patient care and is the “science and practice (that) integrates nursing, its information and knowledge, with management of information and communication technologies to promote the health of people, families and communities worldwide,” according to the IMIA Special Interest Group on Nursing Informatics. Not surprisingly, nursing informatics is geared toward nurses who want to improve patient safety through the use of computer science, information technology and nursing science.

If you’re a nurse, you can choose whether to advance your studies with an MSN in Nursing  Informatics, or an MS in Health Care Informatics. If you plan to continue working in a patient-facing role, you might find that the MSN provides more growth opportunities with your current employer (and even a bump in pay, depending on your union contract). If you are moving away from a clinical role and find that you enjoy functions such as data analytics and information technology, you may find that you the MS in Health Care Informatics will serve you quite well. One important note: at University of San Diego, the MSN program is only offered in the traditional campus-based format, whereas the MS program is offered both online and on campus.

What does this degree program prepare me to do?

Jobs in health informatics typically require a hybrid skill set of both health care knowledge and information technology (IT) capabilities. In developing our Master of Science in Health Care Informatics program at USD, we looked at all the big health informatics master’s programs available, and what those programs provided students. We discovered that many degree programs were purely technical and didn’t prepare students for leadership or management roles. That’s why we decided to create a graduate degree program that offers both technical training and professional development. Half of the classes in the Master of Science in Health Care Informatics program at USD are health administration classes, which include critical leadership, strategy and policy classes.

In 2019, we further enhanced our curriculum by introducing three customized learning tracks (specializations) that allow students to align their coursework with their career aspirations and interests.

  • The Health Care Analytics track prepares students to become data scientists focused on health care data. You’ll learn how to utilize advanced analytics tools combined with programming skills to design unique solutions for health problems. Typical job titles for graduates from this track include:
    • Decision Support Specialist
    • Clinical Data Specialist
    • Data Integrity Officer/Analyst
    • Research Data Specialist
    • Data Quality Manager
  • The Health Care Leadership track has a strong technology and informatics focus that pre­pares graduates to manage complex human and technology systems while taking on leadership roles in health care organizations. Many of the students enrolling in this track already have some professional experience working in health informatics and wish to learn more about the core leadership functions within the healthcare setting to better prepare themselves for promotion.
  • The Health Care Informatics track is our original program that prepares students to use a variety of methods to automate, organize, and improve the transmission of information to support the delivery of health care. Typical job titles for graduates from this track include:
    • Health Informatics Director
    • Nursing Informatics Director (for those who possess a BSN)
    • Chief Medical Information Officer (for those with an MD or PhD)
    • Electronic Health Record Administrator/Trainer
    • Clinical Analyst
    • Informatics Analyst
    • Director of Clinical Informatics
    • Director of HIM
    • Healthcare IT Project Manager

Read the blog post What Skills Do You Need for a Successful Career in Health Care Informatics? to get a clearer picture of the knowledge and skills you’ll need to work in the field, and take a look at our Program Curriculum for an inside look into what you’ll be learning as a student in the M.S. in Health Care Informatics program.

Where do graduates typically find employment upon graduation?

Graduates of our program are employed both locally (in the southern California market) and nationally with hospitals, clinics, medical devices companies, health insurance companies and data/analytic companies. They are employed as clinical analysts, data management professionals, clinical information systems specialists, EHR implementation managers, in managerial roles and in marketing and sales for medical device companies.

After program completion, is there a certification available?

Our curriculum is based on the informatics standards of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). Nurse informaticists can also seek accreditation through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Read more about the different certifications offered for professionals working in health informatics.

If your goal is to sit for the RHIA certification, a master’s degree in health information management (rather than health informatics) that is accredited by CAHIIM will be a better fit for your career path.

Can I work while completing this program?

Yes, both our on-campus and online programs were designed to be completed while working full time. For online students, the flexible one-class-at-a-time format allows you to do your coursework and participate in the discussion topics from wherever you are, at whatever time works best for you.  Read more about things you should consider before earning your degree online.

For students attending the on-campus program, you can expect most of your classes to be scheduled Monday through Thursday in the evening or late afternoon.

How much time do I need to spend studying each week?

Study time will vary based on the course and your comfort level with the material being presented. Most online and part-time campus students say they spend about 20 hours per week completing their coursework and participating in discussion boards. For full-time students, campus students, the time investment is greater.

Most weeks you will also have a paper to write. If you are unsure about your ability to write in APA format at the graduate level, or if it has been a while since you earned your undergraduate degree, you might find it worthwhile to take a college writing course before your first class starts. This will help build your confidence and ensure you have the skills and competence to get through your writing assignments more efficiently.

What is unique about the program at the University of San Diego (USD)?

Our approach to graduate-level health informatics curriculum is unique for several reasons.

  • We offer a continuum of options, from a graduate-level certificate through MSN. Students taking the graduate certificate can transfer their coursework into one of our master’s degree programs.
  • University of San Diego’s practical program prepares you for success with three unique curriculum tracks that allow you to develop your health care leadership, programmatic and analytic competencies while addressing contemporary issues in informatics such as population health analysis, clinical documentation and workflow optimization, and data security.
  • Our advisory board of industry experts guide the development and continual refinement of our curriculum, ensuring that we are preparing students with the skills they need to be successful in the workforce.
  • For our M.S. program, you can choose whether you prefer a traditional campus-based format or the flexibile online format. With the online format you will take just one 7-week class at a time, making this an excellent choice for working professionals.
  • Our curriculum has been approved by HIMSS (The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), and prepares students to sit for the CAHIMS and CPHIMS exams. Graduates of the MSN program are also eligible to seek certification as nursing informaticists through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
  • Students in our program will not only learn the technical and programmatic skills required of an informaticist, but also the leadership and management competencies that will set you apart in your organization. JoAnn W. Klinedinst, Vice President of Professional Development at HIMSS, spoke highly of our program’s value in “better preparing (students) to assume leadership roles in the field of health informatics.” Klinedinst complimented USD for offering “an intensive curriculum exposing students to MBA-type courses in many different topics so critical to the health informatics field.”
  • Students can start their program of study in September, January or May. (On-campus students must select January or September.)
  • USD is a regionally accredited, top 100 university. Regional accreditation is considered the gold standard in assessing the quality and consistency of a higher education program. Many online programs have only achieved national accreditation, a standard which is not as rigorous and reliable as the regional accreditation standard.
What if my GPA is slightly below the minimum? Do I still have a chance to get accepted?

Absolutely! We understand that you are more than your undergraduate GPA . We will look at your entire application package holistically, and your undergraduate GPA may potentially be offset by work experience, an admission essay, or fulfillment of a graduate-level course to show readiness for success in your graduate degree. Our Academic Director may also ask for a pre-admission interview with you to better understand your career goals and identify any ways our team might be able to better support you through your graduate studies. Ultimately, our goal is your success. We want to ensure that the students who are admitted to our program have the experience, tools and resources they need to graduate from the program and pursue their career goals.

Is a degree or work experience in health care required for admission?

Only our MSN program (specifically for nurses) requires health care experience and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. But if you are applying to our M.S. in Health Care Informatics program, your bachelor’s degree can be in any discipline, and health care experience is not required. If you have not worked in health care, you will be required to complete an online medical terminology course which is not part of the degree curriculum. This will help give you a foundational understanding of the terms and concepts discussed throughout the program.

Review all of the admission requirements. 

What is the difference between the on-campus and the online degree programs?

The curriculum of the M.S. in Health Care Informatics online and on-campus programs is substantively the same. Both programs also share faculty members and are administered by the same Program Director. Below is a list of the primary differences:

  • The online program is 37 units; the on-campus program is 42 units
  • The cost per unit also varies: $935/unit online vs. $1,580/unit on-campus
  • Campus-based students also have additional fees associated with being on campus (health services, parking, etc)
  • Online students take one accelerated class at a time, and each class lasts just 7 weeks. On-campus students take 2-3 classes concurrently and follow a more traditional semester pace.
  • On-campus students attend a seminar course which doesn’t apply to online students
  • New students may start the online program in Fall, Spring or Summer, but the on-campus program only accepts new students in the Fall and Spring.
  • Minor differences in coursework exist for each track. Please refer to the curriculum pages for more information about specific courses included in each track.
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