Individuals working in healthcare settings who are not involved in direct patient care can be just as vital to ensuring effective and efficient healthcare as doctors or nurses. As technology advances and policies shift towards greater inclusion of electronic recording as part of the treatment and processing of patients, individuals who provide administrative support should become more knowledgeable in an array of skills.
Professionals with a blend of healthcare and IT skills, particularly in health informatics, can now play a vital role in the delivery of effective and efficient care for patients.
The health informatics industry is experiencing extraordinary growth and there are not enough qualified health information technology (HIT) professionals to fill all of the positions available.
Using projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “employment of health information technicians is projected to grow 15 percent from 2014 to 2024.” Jobs will be available in the public and private sector, in healthcare facilities and physicians’ offices, in the computer software industry and in schools and training departments. According to a BLS Economic News Release, healthcare technical occupations are projected to be one of the fastest growing groups during the 2014 to 2024 projections decade.
There are multiple reasons for a shortfall in qualified healthcare IT talent, including the national mandate that all public and private healthcare providers must demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic medical records (EMRs) to qualify for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Incentive Programs and the aging of the top tier of the labor pool as the baby boomers begin to retire.
The job and career potentials are numerous and while some background in healthcare combined with IT would be a great baseline, one or the other can start opening doors. Some of the career paths to consider include:
- Medical and Health Services Managers: Sometimes referred to as healthcare executives or healthcare administrators, these individuals are typically responsible for the planning and overseeing of the business and financial aspects of healthcare institutions, including the workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) these professionals “direct changes that conform to changes in healthcare laws, regulations, and technology” and earned an average annual wage of $109,370 as of May 2016.
- Nursing Informatics Specialist – Being a nurse means being comfortable with computerized charting, EMRs, and using a variety of often highly technical diagnostic equipment. An RN who wants to stretch his or her wings and get some formal informatics training has great career prospects in public or consumer health, education and in research and development.
- Health Informatics Director – If people and social skills are among your strengths, backed up by experience and/or education in technology information, this could be the perfect position. As integrated EHRs and meaningful use become the backbones of the healthcare system nationwide, people who can fill executive positions organizing the flow of data across all departments and divisions of a facility will be in great demand.
- Implementation Specialist – Employed in educational settings, doctor’s offices, hospitals, even insurance companies, the implementation specialist is a teacher at heart. Working as a liaison between software engineers and users, the specialist must understand and be able to install and use the company software, know how to develop training programs and materials and be able to instruct employees on how to actually operate the programs.
Healthcare informatics is an emerging career path with tremendous potential for growth. People mid-career in healthcare or IT can find advanced degrees and certification programs, such as an MS in Healthcare Administration Health Informatics degree, that will allow them to gain training online while still working, and new college students can start building lifetime careers that combine the emerging worlds of technology and healthcare.