With a major shift toward electronic record keeping in the healthcare industry, the occupation of health informatics consultant is quickly becoming one of the more important and in-demand jobs. Health informatics consultants are responsible for overseeing clinical application systems and databases that more and more healthcare facilities are utilizing to track patient records. The job can include duties related to all aspects of the system, from implementation and modification, to staff training and solving any problems that might arise with the software itself.
In 2009, the United States Congress passed a stimulus bill that included a mandate for all healthcare providers who receive Medicaid or Medicare funds. The mandate requires these providers to transition to electronic patient records. The shift makes it possible for patient information to swiftly be accessed by doctors, nurses, specialists and other healthcare providers who may need information, without delay. Electronic patient records reduce healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes by allowing all of a patient’s healthcare providers to be on the same page, instead of each having access to only their piece of the puzzle.
Many healthcare providers work with Medicare and Medicaid patients, meaning demand for health informatics consultants is expected to be high. As of 2013, the CDC reported that 78.4% of all doctors’ offices had already transitioned to electronic healthcare records.
The salary of a health informatics consultant 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. As this is an emerging field, the U.S. Department of Labor has not yet published salary data for this profession.
According to Health Informatics Careers, an American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) website, a 2010 AHIMA salary study listed the annual median salary of a Health Informatics Consultant at $88,285. The survey was given to nearly 11,000 health information professionals by AHIMA, the foremost professional organization for the field of medical record management.
Those interested in more precise salary information for health informatics consultants should research their local markets.
An associate’s degree and experience have typically been the necessary requirements needed to manage patient records in a healthcare environment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the consultant level, however, more employers prefer employees with a higher level of education.
In response to this demand, more universities are beginning to offer courses that prepare students for the health informatics field with master’s degree programs as well as graduate certificate programs. To offer flexibility for the working professional, many of these degree programs are available online. Coursework typically includes medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, coding systems, insurance and government reimbursement systems and software systems.
Health records are vitally important to any medical procedure. They are also confidential, information-rich documents that work best when they (and the software on which they are viewed) are as up-to-date as possible. This requires health informatics professionals who are focused, detail-oriented and extremely proficient at managing and operating computer databases.
For consultants, a typical day might include explaining a new records system to workers in a doctor’s office and then training staff on how to use the system. Health informatics consultants also communicate information about the system to people at all levels of the operation, from doctors and nurses to patients.
If you are a detail oriented person who works well teaching others, understands computer software and enjoys the challenges and responsibilities of a healthcare environment, consider a career as a healthcare informatics consultant.