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How to Apply Your IT Skills to Health Informatics

If you’re an IT professional (or soon-to-be) and have an interest in putting your technological skills to use in the healthcare space, a career in health informatics is worth a look.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines health informatics as “the interdisciplinary study of the design, development, adoption and application of IT-based innovations in healthcare services delivery, management and planning.” For people with an interest and/or background in IT, there may be an opportunity to establish a connection between technology and the way healthcare is delivered.

So, what are some of the career possibilities in this field? And what do you have to do to get there?

Health Informatics Career Possibilities

Technology has changed the healthcare landscape – with electronic medical records and telemedicine, for example – so it’s no surprise there is a need for professionals who can blend IT and healthcare skills. Results from CompTIA’s Fourth Annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities survey shined a light on the importance of IT skills to healthcare providers in finding 52% of healthcare providers rated IT was “very important,” and 37% as “important” to their practices.

Furthermore, the 2017 HIMSS Leadership and Workforce Survey found that for hospitals hiring at least one IT worker in the past year, the most commonly sought role was for a project manager.  Demand for project managers increased by 22 percentage points over 2014, when the last survey was published. According to CIO magazine’s “7 Healthcare IT Roles That Are Transforming Tech Careers,” healthcare experts also expressed a demand for the following IT-healthcare hybrid positions: clinical applications analysts, clinical informatics, ICD-10 conversion project managers, ICD-10 testing coordinators/coders, HL7/interface analysts/developers, meaningful use business analysts and clinical application trainers.

In terms of salary expectations, informatics nurse specialists, for example, earned a median wage in 2016 of $87,220, according to O*NET OnLine. And the projected growth for these positions between 2014 and 2024 is more than 14%. This role involves using healthcare knowledge to develop and modify healthcare IT systems. While the positions listed above are just a sampling of roles in a growing field, they give you an idea of the variety of health IT positions in need.

Because salary potential and employment opportunities may vary depending on factors such as a candidate’s education and experience, as well as regional market conditions, prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research.

How to Break into Health Informatics

Increased competition within healthcare IT may make it challenging for IT professionals without healthcare experience to break into the field, according to Verywell’s “How to Break Into a Career in Health Care IT.” Demonstrating how you can help keep physicians efficient and effective in caring for patients can help you during the hiring process. You can also explain how you understand the importance of the IT function to the overall purpose of a healthcare facility in delivering quality patient care.

Beyond experience in IT, any background in privacy and security, clinical practice, needs assessment and contract negotiation will be beneficial, according to “Health Information Technology Knowledge and Skills Needed by HIT Employers,” published in Applied Clinical Informatics. Learning on the job and thinking critically to solve problems were some of the soft skills mentioned in the article.  

Additionally, having a bachelor’s in a field related to healthcare or IT or an advanced degree will make you stand out from other applicants, according to Verywell. Any certifications [particularly certified information systems security professional (CISSP), Cisco certified network associate (CCNA) and project management professional (PMP) for health IT] will go a long way.

Without direct experience in the field, consider an internship at a healthcare facility, doctor’s office or hospital to gain a better understanding of the health IT roles and their contribution to the health system.

With a background in IT and specialized knowledge of healthcare systems, you may well be on your way to career in health informatics.

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