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Starting a Health Informatics Career

Technology continues to disrupt and revolutionize businesses across all industries, particularly healthcare.

One significant change involved the implementation of electronic healthcare records (EHRs). Now, sharing patient information across various software platforms is leading to efficient medical operations that also provide better services. That means better outcomes for patients.

Those pursuing an associate degree in healthcare administration or a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration with a concentration in health informatics are preparing themselves to potentially take on important roles in healthcare.

What Is Health Informatics?

Many people remain unaware of health informatics. It’s hardly the stuff of high drama and big TV ratings. But in the real world of medicine, it’s crucial. Those who study health informatics learn the latest tools and techniques for collecting, storing, safely sharing and analyzing information to provide better care to patients.

As with data in all industries, it’s usually not a challenge to collect it. However, it takes qualified professionals to separate good data from bad and properly manage its storage and use. That’s what those educated and trained in health informatics do.

Success in the field requires expert-level knowledge not only in computer systems and data analytics, but also foundational knowledge in clinical operations and how the healthcare system works. Knowledge about data management, as well as legal and ethical issues are key components of the job.

Potential Careers in Health Informatics

For those considering entering a degree program that focuses on health informatics, the central question is usually this: what can I do with the degree once I earn it? Thankfully, the answer is “many different jobs.”

Some people may start their healthcare career working as electronic medical records specialists, managing patient health data, or as medical scribes for physicians, documenting patient interactions with the doctor and entering them into an EHR system.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected 13% growth for medical records and health information technicians through 2026; the average salary as of May 2016 was $42,820. A certificate and/or an associate degree can help potential candidates find work in the field.

Managing a team that handles healthcare data typically requires earning a bachelor’s degree. While the BLS does not separate out health informatics managers from other healthcare managers, the growth in management is expected to continue, driven partly by an aging U.S. population. The BLS projects 20% growth among medical and health services managers; the average annual salary was $111,680 as of May 2016.

Demand for health informatics workers is expected to grow in the coming years; earning a college degree may open the door to a variety of career possibilities. The 2018 HIMSS U.S. Leadership and Workforce Survey reported that consultants (69%) offer the best opportunity for jobs in 2018, even as more hospitals hire technology experts for their staff.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) cites other career paths for health informatics professionals.

  • Academics – This includes professors who teach informatics and researchers who investigate new ways of applying informatics in healthcare.
  • Consulting – Consultants work often on a contract basis as subject matter experts who help set up and sometimes manage IT systems in a healthcare operation.
  • Government – Public agencies need health informatic professionals to establish policy for healthcare records and set up systems in government-run healthcare systems.

Some medical operations hire outside consultants to develop and manage health informatics systems. The cost of maintaining a department within a medical operation – from hospitals and doctors’ clinics to retirement facilities and community centers – can be a big expense to take on for some organizations. Consultants surveyed in the study listed the following medical operations where they offer services.

  • Hospitals
  • Independent ambulatory clinics
  • Community health center clinics
  • Mental/behavioral health clinics
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Home healthcare organizations
  • Hospice organizations

Keep in mind that salary and job growth projections are for the entire country. You’ll want to conduct your own research to get the best idea of job growth and salaries.

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