Like many others, Dr. Athanasios Tsalatsanis’s career path was untraditional. The University of South Florida health informatics professor began his career as an industrial engineering student.
When his research mentor needed help on a federally funded project to create decision support systems for terminally ill patients, Tsalatsanis was intrigued.
“As a researcher, I find the field of health informatics fascinating,” Tsalatsanis said. “There are many opportunities to design and develop new theories, methodologies, and products applicable to big-data analytics, medical decision support, machine learning, natural language selection, usability, interface design, process design and so much more.”
Tsalatsanis has a master’s degree in production systems engineering from the Technical University of Crete in Greece and a doctorate in industrial and management systems engineering from USF. Though his dissertation, “Control of Autonomous Robot Teams in Industrial Applications” speaks to his initial intent to apply his skills to a different field, his research background paints a different picture. He has an extensive research record in medical decision-making, decision support systems, autonomous systems healthcare process design, prognostication and social network analysis.
Health informatics is “an exciting field,” Tsalatsanis said.
It also is experiencing a growth explosion. Health informatics boasts the ninth largest share of healthcare job postings and is growing at a rate 10 times faster than healthcare jobs overall since 2007, according to Healthcare IT News.
The surge is due in part to government mandates that require healthcare facilities to use digital recordkeeping to streamline patient care, making specialists who design and/or manage information systems critical in the profession.
“There are many career opportunities offered through the health informatics field,” Dr. Tsalatsanis said. “Depending on the student’s background, with health informatics training one should be able to secure a position such as Chief Information Officer, Chief Medical Information Officer, Clinical Data Analyst, IT Consultant” and many more.
The number of job postings in the field on employment websites such as Indeed.com illustrate a compelling snapshot of the opportunities in the field at any given time. And with a median salary of $95,000, according to a 2013 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society survey, the field is fast becoming an attractive one for medical professionals to cross-train in and tech-savvy students to pursue.
“As technology improves, the need for health informatics will grow,” Dr. Tsalatsanis said. “My feeling is that new positions will be created to harvest the main product of health informatics; that is the health data generated. I expect that health data analytics will arise as a new field within health informatics.”
While healthcare technology advances at an impressive rate, more researchers are needed to push the field to the next level. On the frontlines, informatics specialists are needed to oversee day-to-day compliance with new federal regulations.
“With the technology outburst we are currently experiencing, any person involved in healthcare including clinicians and administrators, must have, at the minimum, a general understanding of how technology can be used to improve health outcomes,” Dr. Tsalatsanis said. “I do not perceive this as a recommendation but rather a necessity for a successful healthcare career.”
Healthcare professionals, however, aren’t the only ones who could benefit from pursuing USF’s master’s degree in health informatics.
“Anyone who desires to understand the application of technology in healthcare should consider participating in the program,” he said.
Since starting salaries and job availability can vary, students interested in learning more about health informatics or entering a master’s degree program are advised to conduct their own research. Starting salaries and job availability can vary. To find out more about USF’s 100% online master’s in health informatics, visit the school online. Master’s level classes start every eight weeks.
“As any other master’s level degree, health informatics requires dedication and commitment,” Dr. Tsalatsanis said. “Students must realize that the year in the degree may be hectic but the results are fulfilling and well deserved.”