Health informatics, or the electronic collection and management of healthcare information, is central to modern healthcare. In fact, it's been called the stethoscope of the 21th century.

That's why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or "stimulus bill," included funding to educate more workers in this field. In April, the University of Minnesota received $5.1 million to create the University Partnership for Health Informatics (UP-HI).

Well-developed programs

UP-HI brings together the Institute for Health Informatics at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, University of Minnesota-Crookston and College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.

"All three schools offer mature and highly regarded undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs in health informatics," says U of M professor Julie Jacko. "Programs are geared to working students, who can take most of their courses online."

A mix of roles

Students can earn a master's degree or certificate to prepare for roles such as:

Clinical or public health leader

Health information management and exchange specialist

Health information privacy and security specialist

Research and development specialist

Programmer or software engineer

Also offered is a sub-specialty, or minor, in health informatics for professionals in fields like ethics, business, industrial engineering and economics.

"We do not currently have enough trained workers to fill these roles," Jacko says. "Our graduates will be highly employable."

Application and funding

For information about program requirements and prerequisites, visit the UP-HI website, Before applying to UP-HI, students should first apply and be accepted to an academic program in one of the three UP-HI partner schools.

Federal funds are available to defray tuition and fees. Students in two-year master's programs also receive a stipend. Students should apply now for funding. Support for qualified applicants will be available for a set number of slots over the next two or three years on a first-come, first-served basis.