Health Care Informatics

What’s the Difference Between a Master’s in Health Informatics and a Master’s in Nursing Informatics?

Jonathan Mack PhD, RN-BC, NP

Jonathan Mack PhD, RN-BC, NP

Director of Health Care and Nursing Informatics and Health Systems Leadership

The recent explosion in the field of nursing informatics has created career advancement opportunities for experienced nurses that did not exist as recently as a decade ago.

This is especially true for nurses who have worked with health technology like electronic health records, remote monitoring/telehealth and clinical decision support tools. Knowledge and experience in informatics can position nurses both for clinical leadership roles and also for pathways that involve transitioning away from the patient bedside.

Because additional training and education is often required for promotion into such roles, nurses who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing may be wondering which is the ideal master’s degree option — a Master of Science in Nursing Informatics or a Master of Science in Health Informatics?

Nursing Informatics vs. Health Informatics [Key Differences]

The most obvious and important distinction between nursing informatics and health informatics is how medical and patient data is used to improve the practice of health care.

Nursing Informatics master’s degree (MSN)

Those who earn an advanced degree in Nursing Informatics are focused on utilizing data to improve patient care and outcomes — both through workflow improvements and clinical research, as well as through disease prevention and treatment, and health-focused lifestyle recommendations.

Health Informatics master’s degree (MS-HCI or MSHI)

Those who earn an advanced degree in Health Informatics are typically more focused on analyzing and managing data with the goal of improving business processes, increasing efficiency, reducing costs and seeking strategies to improve overall, rather than individual patient care.

Key Differences

 

Nursing Informatics Health Informatics
 

Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN) required for admission to Master of Science in Nursing Informatics (MSN in Informatics) programs; RN credentials may also be required

 

Bachelor’s degree required for admission to Master of Science in Health Informatics programs

 

Focused on:

  • Improving patient care
  • Clinical workflow efficiencies
  • Enhanced communication among caregivers and patients
  • Communication liaison between clinical and IT staff
  • Research into nursing theory and practice
  • Training clinical staff in new technologies

 

Focused on:

  • Improving health care business and administrative processes
  • Research into improving the health of populations
  • Systems analysis
  • Management of health-related databases
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Data security and interoperability
  • Developing advanced health care technologies connected to data science

 

Certifications:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) – (required)
  • HIMSS Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS)
  • AMIA’s Advanced Health Informatics Certification (AHIC)

 

Certifications:

  • HIMSS Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS)
  • AMIA’s Advanced Health Informatics Certification (AHIC)

MSN students are typically required to finish a 200-hour practicum to be eligible to sit for certification by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

[RELATED] What is Clinical Informatics? >>

Nursing Informatics vs. Health Informatics [Key Similarities]

Since medical applications for the science of informatics continue to expand and evolve, career opportunities and job responsibilities in health informatics and nursing informatics may overlap within hospitals and health care facilities.

The coursework required to earn an advanced degree is also very similar at many institutions, since those in nursing informatics programs will be well-versed on the medical skills and knowledge needed to pursue an informatics track.

Informatics coursework common to both degree options may include:

  • Introduction to Health Information Management
  • Clinical Documentation: Electronic Medical Record Systems
  • Database Design and Knowledge Management
  • Financial Management in Health Care Systems
  • Strategic Planning and Management of Health Systems
  • Management of Health System Care Delivery and Outcomes
  • Health Care Analytics
  • Advanced Health Care Informatics

Key Similarities

 

Nursing Informatics Health Informatics
 

Advanced understanding of health care data science and analytics as it pertains to clinical workflow and care

 

 

Advanced understanding of health care data science and analytics as pertains to business, administrative and research applications

 

 

Work at the intersection of computer science, information technology and nursing/clinical practice

 

 

Work at the intersection of computer science, information technology and health care administration

 

 

Master’s degree preferred and often required for higher-level and leadership positions

 

 

Master’s degree preferred and often required for higher-level and leadership positions

 

Health Informatics vs. Nursing Informatics [Jobs and Career Paths]

Nursing informatics professionals who hold an advanced degree are best positioned for careers that involve using data to help to improve clinical practices and patient care. But, like their counterparts who hold an advanced degree in health informatics, they are also well positioned for opportunities that do not involve clinical care — for example, leadership positions on the business side of health care organizations, in the insurance industry, with informatics-focused technology companies or in medical research.

This means that an MS in Health Informatics is often the ideal choice for those seeking a career in health administration and management, or related research and technologies.

However, nurses and clinical care providers should carefully evaluate their career goals and consider advancing their education by pursuing a:

The good news is that both options provide meaningful and typically high-paying career opportunities for professionals with the right skills and education. Here is a sampling of some of the many job titles and employment possibilities for those with advanced education in informatics.

Job Titles

 

Nursing Informatics Health Informatics
  • Informatics nurse
  • Nurse informaticist
  • Nursing informatics specialist
  • Nursing informatics clinician
  • Clinical analyst
  • Clinical informatics coordinator
  • Clinical nurse informatics specialist
  • IT clinical nurse
  • Clinical systems analyst
  • Clinical documentation specialist
  • Director of clinical informatics
  • Chief clinical informatics officer
  • Informatics researcher
  • Clinical health informaticist
  • Clinical informatics educator
  • Clinical assistant professor – nursing
  • Senior director nursing informatics

 

  • Health informatics specialist
  • Director of clinical informatics
  • Senior analytics consultant
  • EHR informatics coordinator
  • Informatics consultant
  • Health information system application designer
  • Director of Meaningful Use Program
  • Digital transformation consultant
  • Informatics outreach architect
  • IT manager network infrastructure
  • Data architect – clinical & business analytics
  • Population health and informatics bureau manager
  • HIM analyst – document integrity

[RELATED] What Skills Do You Need for a Successful Career in Health Informatics? >>

In addition, new opportunities are opening up throughout the tech world.

Google is making major investments in health care technology, recently hiring former Geisinger Health CEO Dr. David Feinberg to lead a newly formed health team. It has also purchased a company called Deep Mind, developer of an app called Streams that it sees as “an (artificial intelligence) AI-powered assistant for nurses and doctors everywhere — combining the best algorithms with intuitive design, all backed up by rigorous evidence.”

The University of San Diego (USD) offers both:

The USD Health Care Informatics program is a HIMSS Approved Educational Partner, meaning it meets HIMSS’ rigorous quality standards and prepares students to achieve key industry certifications.

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