Health IT and Electronic Health Activate your FREE membership today |  Log-in

A Physician's Perspective: Meaningful Use of Health Technology

Jan 24 2012   10:57PM GMT

Confusion around graduate degrees in health informatics

Posted by: DrJosephKim

I often encounter physicians who want to become a CMIO or a medical director of informatics. These physicians often ask, “should I get a graduate degree in informatics?” Then, the next question is, “which degree should I get?” A master’s degree in: Medical informatics? Health informatics? Clinical informatics? Biomedical informatics?

Although these terms may seem similar and interchangeable, they are actually different. However, I don’t want to get into those technical details right now. Rather,  the issue I want to discuss is more around the various graduate programs that offer degrees in health or medical informatics. Biomedical informatics stands apart on its own.

The world of graduate degrees in health information technology is confusing if you do an Internet search and compare various programs. You’ll find some universities offering online programs and others offering live programs. Some programs are titled “medical informatics” and others call their programs “health informatics.” Why the different names? Wouldn’t it be less confusing if we could all agree to use the same names for all these similar programs?

Let’s take an example by looking at the city of Chicago:

The Master of Science in Medical Informatics Program at the School of Continuing Studies of Northwestern University is an online program. In contrast, the University of Illinois at Chicago offers an online Master of Science in Health Informatics. Why does one Chicago school use the term “medical” while the other school uses the term “health”? Is there really a difference if we’re talking about health IT?

To take the confusion further, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) has recently come up with a medical sub-specialty for physicians called “clinical informatics.” I don’t know why they didn’t call it “medical informatics.” After all, they are the American Medical Informatics Association and not the American Clinical Informatics Association (ACIA). They’re also not the American Health Informatics Association (AHIA). I also don’t see them changing their name anytime either.

Currently, the most common graduate program you’ll find is the MS in Health Informatics. Some schools may call it MS in Health Care Informatics. There are currently only a few schools that offer an MS in “Medical” or “Clinical” Informatics.

These programs are being filled with physicians, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, computer programmers, program managers, consultants, researchers, and various other types of professionals. You couldn’t have a more diverse set of students in a single classroom!

I think we need standardization around graduate degree programs in health information technology. Why should we have so many different degrees? In the world of business, everyone recognizes the MBA. In the world of public health, the common degree is an MPH (although some schools offer an MS in public health, hence we see some people with an MSPH). In the world of health IT, shouldn’t we have a standard graduate degree?

Comment on this Post

Leave a comment:

garvary  |   Nov 11, 2013  9:11 PM (GMT)

I agree that the information is confusing.  I am a masters student in biomedical informatics. Will that qualify me to take the specialty board exam?


Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: