Project managers focus on making operations more effective and efficient. They oversee projects that are essential to business strategy, ensuring they are done on time and within budget.
That’s appealing in the healthcare industry. While growing rapidly, healthcare also is going through a period marked by drastic change and technological innovation, creating the need for process improvement.
Project managers in health IT play a big role in making those elements come together smoothly.
What Project Managers in Health IT Do
Projects managers in health IT typically handle complex projects involving technology in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics and research facilities.
As in any industry, project managers use the tools and techniques of process improvement and project management to set goals, pick team members and guide projects through to completion. They oversee employees, assign tasks and keep projects on schedule. They also communicate with executives on the progress of projects.
With health IT and health informatics, the projects often focus on the collection, management and use of electronic healthcare records. These records are crucial both financially (in regard to Medicare payments, for example) and in improving patient outcomes by making these records consistently available to healthcare professionals.
Challenges Faced by Health IT Project Managers
Overall, healthcare is fast-paced. This is a constant challenge for project managers who may have team members getting pulled in several different directions at once.
In the past, there were specific, troubling issues with electronic healthcare records. A 2011 report published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) found that only 4% of physicians have “extensive, fully functional electronic health records systems.”
Since then, however, much has changed. A 2017 report from the Office of the National Coordinator revealed that nearly 80% of office based physicians possess Certified EHRs, meaning the systems stores and shares data in a structured format and offers the necessary security to maintain the integrity of personalized health information (PHI).
For project managers, the next challenge is helping providers and healthcare technology companies deliver on the promise of their innovations, but putting the data to use and supporting interoperability efforts.
Many of the projects involving project management in healthcare fail for the same reasons many projects fail, according to Search Health IT. They include:
- Poor communication
- A top-down approach
- Lack of people skills
- Juggling multiple projects
- Unrealistic expectations
- An inability to deal with unexpected challenges
How to Become a Healthcare Project Manager
Success as a healthcare project manager involves developing expertise on the latest project management and process improvement tools and techniques.
Taking a change management approach is a decision that can lead to better success. PMI recommends a combination of the change management, project management and IT management disciplines to offer a better chance at success.
Integrating the three can prove a successful formula for project management in healthcare. Of special importance are excellent communication, a focus on the core issues, setting realistic expectations and handling the curveballs every project throws at a team.
The Future for Project Managers
As healthcare expands, the need for qualified healthcare project managers is also expected to grow. Healthcare faces many challenges implementing technology. While the chance of improving patient care is enormous, getting there will require the successful implementation of projects that integrate IT into operations.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect salary or job growth data for healthcare project managers, instead counting them among “business operations specialists.” For that job category, the average salary is $75, 740.
Overall, the number of jobs in healthcare is also expected to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 18% growth in the healthcare industry between 2016 and 2026. That translates into about 2.4 million jobs.