Chief medical information officers (CMIO), sometimes called directors of medical or health informatics, are a fairly new addition to the healthcare industry, but they are already in high demand, as the healthcare industry prepares for the January 1, 2014, federal electronic medical records (EMR) mandate deadline.
The EMR mandate, which stipulates that all medical and healthcare providers billing Medicaid and Medicare must prove “meaningful use” of EMR systems in order to preserve their current reimbursement rates, is part of the 2009 Recovery Act and has two overarching aims: establish a nationwide electronic health records (EHR) system and stimulate the U.S. economy.
Nationwide electronic health records contain a more comprehensive network of patient histories than electronic medical records, which cover patient histories with just one provider, and EHR remains a long-term project. The mandate’s impact on our economy, on the other hand, is already obvious: anyone currently employed in the healthcare industry can attest to the urgent need for credentialed health informatics professionals, in general, and CMIO’s in particular.
Because the field of health informatics is still developing, a CMIO’s duties may vary from one organization to the next. However, most CMIO’s are practicing physicians or IT professionals with appropriate training in the complementary field, and their responsibilities reflect their dual areas of expertise.
On a regular basis, the average CMIO may evaluate an organization’s IT systems; design and apply EMR/EHR software and applications; convert and analyze medical and health data; insure quality of care across multiple information systems; leverage medical and health data to improve services and daily operations; and train physicians and other medical professionals in IT systems and applications, especially EMR/EHR and computerized physician order entry (CPOE). CMIO’s, depending on their individual areas of expertise and training, may also conduct data analytics for research purposes and report findings to executives, government, or scholarly institutions.
The preeminent source of employment and salary data in the nation, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), has yet to publish precise data on the health informatics employment subsector, given its sudden and rapid expansion. As they become available, those data will be added to this site.
As of December 2012, however, BLS does project a 22% rate of growth in employment opportunities for medical and health services managers in general and a 21% rate of growth for general medical records and health information technicians. While neither figure should be taken as directly representative of the market for CMIO’s, they do attest to the surge in opportunities for qualified health IT candidates as a whole.
The salary of a Chief Medical Information Officer Certified in Health Informatics will vary based on a number of factors such as physical location, education, the type of healthcare facility and the exact scope of the job, for example. As this is an emerging field, the U.S. Department of Labor has not yet published salary data for this profession.
According to Health Information Careers, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) website, the 2010 biennial AHIMA salary study listed the annual median salary of a Health Information Executive/President/Vice President at $125,609. The survey was given to nearly 11,000 health information professionals by AHIMA, the foremost professional organization for the field of medical record management.
In addition, of the 118 respondents to the widely referenced CMIO 2010 Compensation Survey, conducted by Clinical Innovation + Technology, 45% reported earning between $180,000 and $220,000 annually, with 8% reporting salaries of $300,000 and higher.
The disparity in reported earnings may be attributable to differences in employer size, type, and location, as well as the fact that many CMIO’s receive bonuses and other financial performance incentives. Most CMIO’s, including 68% of those responding to the 2010 Compensation Survey also serve as physicians, either for their employers or in private practice.
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Formerly, chief medical information officer candidates were required to present a bachelor’s degree in IT or a related field and possess significant experience in medicine, at minimum. Often, employers showed preference to candidates with advanced degrees. With the federal mandate looming—and interest in credentialed health informatics professionals skyrocketing—it’s now possible for medical professionals to earn a Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics in half the time traditionally required of bachelor’s candidates.
Many universities are also adding master’s degree programs in health informatics, which make an ideal investment for the IT professional ready to broaden his or her career prospects and transition into one of the fastest-growing fields in the country.
Two-thirds of the CMIO 2010 Compensation Survey respondents said they feel “very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their current compensation.” The survey also reports that CMIO’s are enjoying greater involvement in organizational strategy, including capital expenditures, and attributes this trend to long-term relationships: the majority of respondents transitioned to CMIO status without seeking a new employer.
It would appear that the list of reasons for medical professionals to pursue careers in health informatics is growing almost as fast as the field itself. If you are interested in a career in this quickly emerging field, consider a certificate program or master's degree in health informatics from the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida.
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