Demand for health care informatics professionals is high, and those with informatics skills will be well positioned in the years to come. However, information technology professionals need to understand many aspects of the health care industry and practice, whether political landscape, operations, regulatory constraints or workflow processes.
IT professionals have seen good career opportunities. The reason is that companies have increasingly relied on computers to work more efficiently and create strategic opportunities. But for years, the health care industry has not been at the forefront of job searches for most IT people. That’s because hospitals, clinics, testing laboratories, and the like weren’t at the cutting edge of information technology practice. Those days are over, and many IT experts might find that an appropriate background, like a health information management degree, can help charge their careers.
Between the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — the stimulus passed in response to the great financial meltdown — and the Affordable Care Act of 2010, health care has found itself on the speed track to high-tech. The transition to electronic health care records, implementation of practice support systems, and data integration means an accelerating need for IT professionals.
Even more important, though, is what care providers will do with all the information that will be generated and available. That is where health care informatics comes into play. The intelligent use of analytics to collect, interpret, and use data to improve health care has lit a fire under the industry. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the field of health information and health care informatics is seeing 49 percent job growth. RnR Market Research estimates that health care analytics will grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2017.
The reason is that, ultimately, health care is based on the intelligent use and sharing of data. An internist will refer a patient to a specialist who, in turn, calls for particular tests and maybe scans. Ultimately, the patient might require treatment in a hospital or other facility. All these care givers and organizations must share information in a complete and timely fashion to adequately treat the person. Should one test result or aspect of a medical history — including things that the patient has forgotten took place years ago — go missing, the viability or even safety of a treatment course might be called into question.
Furthermore, the bounds of medical practice race along further than any practitioner can necessarily comprehend. New treatment protocols may revise practices that have become habits among doctors. Drug interactions become complex, particularly if one doctor does not realize what another doctor may have prescribed. With so many patients to treat, it is impossible to remember every aspect of each one. Automated systems can help enforce best care practices, catch mistakes and provide timely reminders, all of which require experts in health care IT.