Job Profile: Health Informatics

Health informatics, also called clinical informatics, is an evolving field concerned with developing systems for storing, retrieving, and securing healthcare information. Since the government passed a bill requiring electronic health records (EHRs) in 2009, health informatics has become a popular career for MHA graduates. Health informatics directors are upper-level managers tasked with implementing technology to streamline patient record reporting. It’s their goal to make clinical information easily accessible by doctors, nurses, and other medical providers for high-quality treatment. Health informatics directors stay up-to-date with new tech advancements to recommend IT changes to senior executives. They customize software products to fit their organization’s needs so that clinicians can review stored data. Health informatics strives to build information systems for security and confidentiality.

Salary

According to statistics on Salary.com, health informatics directors in the United States earn a median annual salary of $80,398. This equates to a median hourly wage of $39 or $1,546 per week. When benefits like bonuses, insurance, pensions, social security, and vacation are included, the average total compensation for health informatics directors is $111,920 yearly.

Beginning Salary

Newly hired health informatics directors will likely land in the bottom 10th percentile with an annual income around $62,031. However, health information directors in larger facilities with years of experience can eventually make a base salary beyond $101,209 each year. Advancing into the Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) title provides a lucrative salary over $200,000.

Key Responsibilities

Health informatics directors are given the primary responsibility of overseeing the databases that manage the patient data generated by medical providers. They develop data-driven solutions that help improve authorized IT access and patient health. Health informatics directors will collaborate with and train other departments to implement clinical software systems. They’ll make certain that staff from surgeons to LPNs know how to communicate health information. When errors occur, health informatics directors will supervise staff troubleshooting and repairing the system to perfect working order. Working in health informatics means promoting IT functionality by designing, testing, securing, and fixing clinical information databases.

Necessary Skills

Being successful in health informatics requires having a sufficient knowledge base of medical terminology and clinical procedures. Health informatics directors must develop the leadership skills to oversee staff working on the implementation of data systems. Communication skills are essential for directors to clearly train physicians and staff on new IT processes. Project management skills are important for health informaticists to satisfy system needs on time and within budget. Health informatics directors should have the computer programming ability to code software in Java, C++, Python, SQL, and other languages. Analytical skills help directors evaluate data processing and weigh potential solutions for improvement. Health informatics directors must honest and ethical to deal with confidential patient records.

Degree and Education Requirements

Entry-level jobs in health informatics are available with a diploma or associate degree, but advancement will require at least a bachelor’s. Aspiring health informatics directors should attend a four-year college to major in health information management, healthcare administration, information technology, computer science, or a related field. Most employers will prefer hiring health informaticists with a master’s degree. Earning a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) or Master of Health Informatics (MHI) is ideal. CAHIIM-accredited graduate programs offer the highest quality of education. For promotion to Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO), you may need a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Health informatics was ranked America’s #1 emerging job opportunity by CareerBuilder.com, but the job comes with both advantages and drawbacks. On the sunny side, health informatics directors earn a handsome yearly salary that can cross the six-figure mark. Directors can specialize their career to various work environments, from hospitals to clinical research centers and pharmaceutical companies. There’s a high demand in health informatics to keep job searches fairly short. Introverted individuals may also enjoy the fact that there’s little to no direct interaction with patients. However, health informatics directors must be highly experienced with advanced education and certification. With the looming threat of security breaches, health informatics can be stressful. Health informatics directors must continually educate themselves on new field advancements. Training tech-challenged doctors and nurses could be difficult for some informaticists. Health informatics directors may also work longer than 40 hours weekly for overseeing the intricacies of clinical data systems.

Getting Started

Classroom instruction for a degree only gets you so far. Entering the health informatics field will require having hands-on IT and/or clinical experience. Build an impressive resume by earning internships, co-operatives, and part-time work related to information science. Working for a healthcare organization is advised to better understand the central patient focus. Many master’s programs are available part-time or during evenings for flexibility while working full-time. Most health informatics directors have at least six years of experience before promotion. You may have to start as a clinical data analyst, medical record technician, or informatics nurse to develop your skills. Acquiring professional certification can help. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) offers the Advanced Health Informatics Certification (AHIC). You can become a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) by attending a CAHIIM-accredited program. The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) designation is also beneficial.

Future Outlook

The medical industry has completely reshaped the electronic record-keeping process. Changes with ICD-10 and “big data” are also spiking the demand for health informatics directors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects growth in health informatics by 15 percent from 2014 to 2024. That’s nearly twice the national average for all professions. Health informatics will inflate to cover over 217,600 jobs in the U.S. economy. One report from Burning Glass Technologies found that there’s a shortage of qualified health informaticists for these jobs. Health informatics jobs stay open 15 percent longer than average. Competition does heat for upper-level positions though. Health informatics directors can find openings in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, medical groups, physician offices, pharmaceutical companies, clinical research firms, and more.

If you’re interested in an in-demand career that blends information technology and programming with healthcare, then health informatics is your best bet. Health informatics directors play a pivotal role in creating and maintaining the IT-based innovations that protect clinical data. In today’s fast-paced, digital world, they also upgrade existing databases to improve health outcomes. Consider becoming a health informatics director to better the communication systems that keep medical delivery systems running safely.

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