Health Informatics Profession

What is Health Informatics?
Health Informatics (HI) is a discipline that is rapidly gaining prominence as countries around the world seek to leverage digital technologies to enable care provision and build knowledge at individual and population levels.  There are a variety of definitions, but all are based on principles of connecting, accessing and assessing health information for the improvement of health systems.

“Health informatics is the interdisciplinary study of the design, development, adoption and application of information technology (IT) – based innovations in healthcare services delivery, management and planning. “

As defined by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan 7 2014
www.himss.org/health-informatics-defined

“Health Informatics is a discipline that deals with the collection, storage, retrieval, communication and optimal use of health related data, information and knowledge. It recognizes the role of citizens in their own health care as well as the information handling roles of the healthcare professionals, and is now considered a critically essential and pervasive element in sustainable health care delivery. There is a recognized need for the advancement and teaching of knowledge about the application of information and communication technologies to healthcare – the place where health, information and computer sciences, psychology, epidemiology and engineering intersect.”As defined by the Health Informatics Society of Australia, 1994; UK Health Informatics Society, 2007.

Is Health Informatics the same as eHealth, mHealth, Medical Informatics, Biomedical Informatics, Digital Technologies, Telemedicine, and Nursing or Clinical Informatics?
The term Health Informatics is a broad term referring to a wide scope of digital information technologies in healthcare – it includes all of the above terms and more. It is often used interchangeably (sometimes erroneously) with such terms depending on context and focus.
What is the difference between Health Informatics and other programs in healthcare and technology or information management?
Health Information Management is most often studied in a diploma-level program offered by a community college and is often a requirement for individuals who work with clinical health records or in decision support areas. There is a certification process for Health Information Management Programs, administered by the Canadian Health Information Management Association.

Certificates and diplomas in Health Informatics are increasingly emerging across Canada and internationally. These programs are not generally based in computer-programming or data analytics, though most incorporate learning from these fields.

Health Informatics at University of Toronto is a Master’s degree-level professional program established in 2008 for individuals pursuing leadership positions in health and information systems. This program emphasizes knowledge and skills in strategy and policy development; informing high level decision making; system analysis, assessment, and solution architecture; project management; and the development, implementation and management of technological applications and change across the health and health care delivery system.

What is the future for employment in Health Informatics?
EHealth, including electronic health records, clinical and consumer information technologies, and management of patient data, are major priorities at provincial and federal levels. Billions of dollars are being invested through Canada Health Infoway and eHealth Ontario, for example, to develop, implement and maintain eHealth solutions across health systems.

The COACH: Human Resources Outlook 2014-2019 report identifies a national shortage of skilled professionals to lead and manage this change.

What career progress in health informatics can I expect with an MHI degree?
The MHI Program is one of Canada’s only professional graduate-level programs that focuses on developing skilled professionals to meet the rising healthcare demand for informatics leaders.

Our graduates are highly sought after and widely employed in most of the areas on the COACH and CHIMA Career Matrices (seen below).  Graduates almost universally see advancement in roles and compensation in comparison to their status on program entry. The jobs secured on graduation vary by individual and depend, in part, on background experience gained before program entry.

Our graduates are in positions as specialists, analysts, managers, directors and in other leadership roles to areas such as clinical informatics, implementation and project management, business intelligence and analytics and product management.

To learn more about the progression of careers in health informatics:

More information on jobs in health informatics may be found through sites such as the following:

Master of Health Informatics Program

What is the difference between the regular (MHI) and executive (EMHI) streams of Master of Health Informatics.

Master of Health Informatics regular (MHI) and executive (EMHI) streams are two options leading to an identical degree.

MHI EMHI
Background of entry to mid-level careers Background of mid to senior -level careers in field
Seeking to transform career Seeking to add credential to progress in career
16 months 22 months
Experiential learning through practicum placement in healthcare setting. Experiential learning through professional project developed and delivered in employer setting.
Weekly classes Modular format every 3-4 weeks, some weekly classes
Students may work part-time Full-time employment required
Is the Master of Health Informatics (MHI) Program accredited or certified?

Health Informatics is an emerging discipline and there is no official accreditation or certification body at this time. However, all university graduate programs must be reviewed and approved by the Ontario Council of Graduate Studies (OCGS), the body which governs university graduate programs for the Ontario Government.

Do I need to know how to code or program to be accepted into the MHI program?
An understanding of coding and programming is beneficial, however the emphasis for admission is on having an understanding of how information technology systems work. Experience in managing IT projects, adopting information technologies in healthcare settings, or working on system implementation and change management is valued.
Do I need related work experience in order to be accepted into the MHI program?
Preference is given to candidates with relevant professional experience in healthcare and information technology. Experience that demonstrates a balance of understanding of both fields is ideal. Experience from degrees, certificates, employment and volunteer settings is all considered during the application process. Each applicant is carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions about the applicability of your experience and/or suitability for the program, we would be happy to speak with you.
What is the required background to apply to MHI?
Required background includes:

  • An appropriate four year undergraduate degree (e.g., Health Sciences or Social Sciences specialty, Regulated Health Professions in Ontario, Computer Science or Information Science Specialty) or its equivalent, from a recognized university.
  • B+ average in the last academic year is required.
  • Demonstrated English language proficiency.
How is my grade average calculated during the application process?
We take the average grades of your last 5 full-course or 10 half-course equivalents.
Do you references have to be academic or can they be professional?
We require two references. It is acceptable to provide an academic and non-academic reference. We suggest you select your references based on who will give you the most positive review and is at the most senior level. Please ensure that your referees are comfortable in recommending you.
How does the MHI work?
The sequencing of the courses throughout the MHI Program provides for the more fundamental material to be offered near the beginning and for increasing levels of course choice being available toward the end of the Program.

By the time students engage in the practicum (or EMHI project), they have completed ten core half-courses, providing a firm grounding in current health informatics components and issues.  All are half-credit courses (0.5 FCE) unless otherwise indicated.
All current timetables (subject to change) are located at: ihpme.utoronto.ca/academics/pp/mhi/handbook/timetables

MHI: The MHI Program requires that each student take 10 full credits where each one term course counts as one-half credit (except for MHI2005Y: Practicum, which is equal to two credits).  It will take MHI students 16 months to complete the program and EMHI students 22 months. The periods are broken into consecutive Sessions of study, each one more or less coincidental with the traditional academic term, and each containing 2.5 Full Credit Equivalents (FCE).

Can I work while completing the MHI Program?
The MHI regular stream program is a two-year program condensed into a 16-month time frame. It is a rigorous program and to be successful, you will need to commit to full-time studies to meet the academic demands. It is recommended that you speak to your employer about the possibility of a study sabbatical. Some students have managed to accommodate part-time work later in their program, but it is recommended that this option be considered only after discussions with the MHI Program Director, Julia Zarb.

The MHI executive stream students are required to be employed in full-time positions on entry to the program. Employment should be reasonably foreseeable as sustaining through the 22 months of the program.

Will I be paid for my practicum?
The practicum is the applied learning component of the regular stream MHI program.  From May to August, every MHI student participates in a full-time (600 hour/ 37.5 hours per week) professional practicum placement that counts for 20% of degree credits (2 FCE).

The practicum provides learners with the opportunity to build on MHI course learning and to employ related problem-solving skills. By the start of practicum, students will have completed more than 250 hours of in-class graduate instruction, in addition to workshops and projects.

Preceptor organizations hosting practicum students are not required to pay stipends, however most placements are paid. Paid students are subject to the policies and processes of their host organizations. While every effort is made to secure payment, occasionally placements with high learning value are offered without stipend. It is important for students to plan finances without depending on practicum payment.

Am I eligible for funding from the Ontario Graduate Scholarship Program (OGS)?
While you are technically “eligible to apply” for this funding, you will not “qualify” to receive funds. This is because OGS funds are only awarded in programs that provide matching funding. IHPME currently matches funds only for its research programs – the MSc and PhD. The Institute is unable to match funds for its professional programs – the MHI and MHSc – because there are no endowment funds or other funding sources available for these programs.
Do you provide funding?
Professional programs are not eligible for most research-based awards, and students in these programs are not included in the funded cohort. MHI is an OSAP eligible program. You may wish to visit the School of Graduate Studies website for financial aid. http://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/currentstudents/Pages/Scholarships-and-Awards.aspx
Do you accept international students?
We typically only take a very small number of international students. International applicants that have been accepted in the past have been highly competitive (high grades, excellent reference letters, clear and relevant letter of intent and applicable work experience).
Can you tell me if I’m a good candidate?
Application to MHI is a multi-stage process. Each application is considered in its entirety. For this reason, we cannot interview or review CVs or related materials outside of the application process.
Can I do a PhD after the MHI?
Health informatics at IHPME is also offered as a concentration within the Health Services Research (HSR) program.  A few students have progressed to PhD after MHI, however there is a necessary migration path from the professional (terminal degree) into the research-based degrees.

Contact Emily Seto, Health Informatics Research Lead, for more information.

I have more questions. Who should I talk to?
For questions related to the application and admissions process, including eligibility, contact Graduate Assistant Zoe Downie- Ross.

For questions related to MHI as a fit for your career direction, contact Program Director, Julia Zarb