Healthcare and related industries are home to the fastest-growing job sectors in the country and that trend is expected to continue well past 2020. Many of those jobs will be in health information technologies (HIT). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of health information professionals who handle medical records is expected to grow more than 15% from 2014 to 2024, twice the average anticipated growth for all occupations.
The tremendous growth is creating a dearth in the job pool. The 2017 Leadership and Workforce Survey conducted by the research arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found that 61% of healthcare organizations and vendors are expected to increase hiring in the upcoming year. Initiatives such as the mandated shift to electronic health and medical records and ICD-10-CM, which encompasses the addition of more than 70,000 new medical codes, promise to make professionals with HIT experience more employable than ever.
Career Paths in Healthcare IT
- Electronic medical or health record (EMR, EHR) development and maintenance – “From design and implementation of systems to ensuring information integrity, collating meaningful use data, and introducing patients to portals, the EHR has opened new doors for health information management (HIM) in the traditional and non-traditional settings,” according to ADVANCE for Health Information Professionals.
- Analytics – Once the data has been collected, professionals are needed to read, analyze and offer suggestions for program improvements. Hospitals build care protocols from collected data, and staffing projections come from analyzing patient admission and diagnosis trends. Insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and medical supply manufacturers all study healthcare data when making production and payment decisions.
- Coding – Coding experts are needed to help healthcare providers shift to an international standard coding system called ICD-10-CM (the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems). ICD-10-CM is a medical classification list used to classify diseases and other health problems. It increases the number of medical codes from about 14,000 to more than 70,000. As of Oct. 1, 2015, every doctor’s office, health clinic, long- and short-term care facility was required to diagnose patients and bill insurance companies using the more detailed ICD-10-CM system.
- Education and Research – For there to be an expanding employee pool, there must be colleges teaching them. Opportunities in the education sector likely will grow to meet student demands.
- Meaningful Use – The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs provide financial incentives for the “meaningful use” of certified Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology. Meaningful use refers to using electronic health records to improve quality, safety and care coordination among healthcare providers, as well as maintaining privacy and security of patient health information and more. It is hoped that meaningful use compliance will lead to better clinical outcomes, improved population health outcomes, increased transparency and efficiency and more robust research data. Specialists in this field ensure that a medical facility, employees and its affiliates comply with HITECH requirements and deadlines for Meaningful Use.
Health IT Job Descriptions and Salaries
- Medical and Health Services Manager – These medical professionals work as administrators or executives who plan, direct and coordinate healthcare services. Regardless of whether they originate from a health IT position, they must possess a solid working knowledge of EMR and EHR trends. The median pay in the U.S. for these positions in 2015 was $94,500, and the field is expected to grow by 17% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS.
- Chief Medical Information (or Informatics) Officer (CMIO) – These hospital executives also might be called directors of health informatics or medical informatics, and are a recent addition to the health IT job field. They typically are highly skilled, experienced IT professionals with a solid background in healthcare, although many practicing healthcare providers have made the transition into IT. They evaluate and improve an organization’s record-keeping system, as well as implementing updated EHR or EMR systems. A 2015 survey by the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found that health IT executives earned an average of $196,472.
- Medical Records and Health Information Technician – These health IT specialists organize and manage health data, primarily through the use of EHR and EMR systems. They earned a median salary of $37,110 in 2015, according to the BLS. They often require certification, and earning an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Health Informatics, can lead to career advancement and higher salaries.
- Nurse Informaticist – Also known as nursing informatics specialists, these healthcare professionals often move from the provider sector to health IT. They are responsible for organizing and managing records using EHR and/or EMR systems. The American Nurses Association defines nursing informaticist as someone who oversees the integration of data, information and knowledge to support decision making by patients and their healthcare providers. The median salary for these positions was $93,000 in 2014, according to the HIMSS Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey.
- Health Informatics Director – These experienced health IT professionals are senior subject-matter experts and IT leaders within their respective organizations. They must possess a deep understanding of health analytics methods and process improvement tools, with a keen awareness of health IT trends and legislative initiatives. They also must understand how health IT can be used to improve patient care and practice profitability.