Health Informatics Jobs Growing as Paperless Deadline Nears
By: Greg Scott Neuman
Back in 2010, the United States government embraced health informatics and all the benefits that come with it by implementing a mandate for healthcare facilities to become paperless by 2015.
Although the transition from paper to digital isn’t exactly convenient for medical facilities or practitioners and their staff to perform, the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. Plus, the number of health informatics jobsis expected to grow 21% by 2020, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The practice of health informatics is a fusing of information science with technology and medicine. It provides benefits like improvements in cost reduction, research and development, policy making and planning, as well as patient treatment plans and long–term case management for cancer.
Health Informatics in Action
Think back to the last time you were ill and went to see a doctor. Your visit probably went as well as a sick visit can, but how is your memory of that visit? Is it foggy?
When we are sick, it’s very easy to overlook something as simple as questioning whether you might be allergic to ingredients in the medication your doctor prescribed. Although most medical facilities require patients to fill out multiple forms asking questions about allergies and past reactions to medications, it’s very easy for something as basic as an allergy to be overlooked by the medical professional reviewing 10 to 20 pages of hand–written information on the fly.
The burden then falls on the pharmacist filling the prescription, and there’s a chance that the allergy can be missed, as well. Why? Because you might have neglected to give the pharmacy your allergen information.
The benefit health informatics has provided in this situation is improved communication and data sharing between patient, doctor and pharmacy. Not only is the data available for the healthcare provider to easily look up, there are database formulas in place to help sniff out potential risks such as prescribing a dangerous medication.
This whole process is possible thanks to professionals who are specially trained in health informatics.
Education and Certification in Health Informatics
Like with most jobs, an educated and/or credentialed professional is going to be in the running above an experienced professional without a credential. Certification is a great way to look ideal in the eyes of a potential hiring manager.
There are two areas of education that lead into the profession. First, there’s a health informatics degree. This may be an associate’s or bachelor’s degree where the focus is concentrated around healthcare and computer science. For those who want to enter the field and already have their associate’s, bachelor’s or MBA degree, credentials can be obtained by entering into a health informatics certificate program and applying for certification upon completion.
Depending on the certifying body, you may obtain your certification by completing an accredited program or passing an exam. As with most technical jobs that require certification, continuing education is a must and certification renewal might also be mandatory. Requirements may be dependent on the state.
Both health informatics degrees and health informatics certificate programs are available in an on–campus or online setting. The ability to receive online training in health informatics is especially good news for professionals who are looking to get ahead but need flexibility in their schedule.
Responsibilities of a Healthcare Information Technician
Although a healthcare informatics technician’s responsibilities may vary depending on their education, experience, certification and role within the medical infrastructure, typical duties may include:
- Input data into a specific database (data can be utilized in a multitude of ways)
- Review a patient’s records to ensure they are up–to–date, accurate and nothing is missing
- Organize, sort and maintain data obtained by the medical facility’s software, which can help improve treatment plans, create future policies and minimize errors
- Create reports to analyze reimbursement processes and help the organization remain profitable
- Ensure and maintain confidentiality of patients
Outlook for Health Informatics
With the country about mid-way to the 2015 deadline for electronic healthcare record (EHR) implementation, it might be a good time to pursue this occupation.
Although the BLS doesn’t have drilled down salary data specific to health informatics, the data that is available for health information technicians is very promising. The BLS reports a median salary of $32,350 in 2010, with the top 10% of earners making more than $50,000.