Are you looking for a healthcare or information technology (IT) career that is personally rewarding and offers advantages like high salary, good benefits and strong job growth potential? Then consider the field of health informatics, where the healthcare and IT industries intersect.
As a health informatics professional, your work will focus on creating and applying IT solutions for data collection, storage and usage in the healthcare industry. This can include maintaining databases of electronic health records, developing software that tracks patient care and training medical personnel in its use.
Top Health Informatics Job Descriptions and Salaries
Health informatics professionals work in a variety of settings. Medical facilities of all sizes, from small doctor’s offices to major metropolitan hospital systems, employ healthcare information technicians to create and maintain patient records. Higher-level positions are more common at larger institutions that need to develop customized software and manage vast amounts of data.
As healthcare facilities convert to electronic medical records (EMRs), the number of jobs in health informatics will continue to increase. In particular, professionals who can fill the position of chief medical information officer (CMIOs) will be in demand.
CMIOs, also known as directors of medical or health informatics, usually are either practicing physicians or IT professionals who have specialized training. Because CMIO jobs are fairly new to the health informatics industry, job duties often vary from one organization to another. Typical CMIOs manage a range of tasks, including the following:
- Evaluating IT systems
- Designing and applying EMR/EHR software and applications
- Converting and analyzing health data
- Ensuring top quality among multiple information systems
- Utilizing medical and health data to encourage improvements in services and daily operations
- Training physicians and other medical professionals in IT systems and applications
- Gathering and analyzing research data to report to executives, government or scholarly institutions
Because this profession is still developing, the U.S. Department of Labor has not released salary information for CMIOs. But according to Health Information Careers, the American Health Information Management Association salary study revealed that health information executives, presidents and vice presidents earned a median salary of $125,609.
The CMIO 2010 Compensation Survey conducted by Clinical Innovation + Technology reported that 45% of survey participants said they earned between $180,000 and $220,000 annually; 8% of these respondents reported earning $300,000 or higher.
Health IT Consultant
Health IT consultants manage clinical application systems and databases in order to track patient records. Since health records are essential to medical procedures, those in this field must be focused, detail-oriented and proficient at managing computer databases.
Health consultants have a range of job tasks, including staff training and overseeing the implementation, modification and troubleshooting related to computer systems. Additionally, consultants often explain information about the databases to other staff members and patients.
Careers for health consultants are somewhat new, and the U.S. Department of Labor has not yet released salary information for this occupation. According to Health Information Careers and the American Health Information Management Association salary study, health informatics consultants earned a median annual salary of $88,285.
Health IT Project Manager
Health IT project managers supervise complex technology projects. Chief responsibilities of health IT project managers include ensuring the process is efficient, the project is completed on time and that it remains within the allotted budget. Other job tasks include:
- Formulating and executing project plans, and making modifications as needed
- Identifying required resources for the project at hand
- Discussing and reviewing deliverables with project members
Earnings for healthcare IT project managers vary depending on geographic location, education level, scope of the job and type of healthcare facility. Indeed.com, a pay-for-performance job recruitment advertising network, reports that the average annual salary for these professionals is $102,000.
Nursing informatics is a specialized area for registered nurses. This area of work combines knowledge of nursing, information technology and health records and data. Specialists in this field pull information from a variety of sources and create processes for use by healthcare professionals, patients and other stakeholders. By doing so, nurse informatics specialists can help improve patient care and outcomes.
Professionals in this occupation might train other nurses in record-keeping procedures.
As reported by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, the median annual salary for nurse informatics specialists is $93,000.
Electronic Medical Record Keeper
Recent legislation at the federal level requires healthcare organizations to transfer their physical documents to electronic medical records (EMRs). If they do not comply, they’ll face steep financial penalties. Accordingly, the number of openings for electronic medical record keepers has increased.
Electronic medical record keepers enter patient information into software programs and databases used by healthcare providers. Data entry might include information regarding patients’ symptoms, conditions, diagnoses and treatments. These records are then used by hospital administrators, medical researchers and insurance companies. Record keepers often work with physicians to ensure data accuracy.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median annual salary for medical records and health information technicians is $34,160. However, professionals specializing in IT often earn more than other information technicians. For instance, the BLS reports that computer information systems managers who work in healthcare facilities earn a mean annual salary of $120,000, and computer support specialists earn a median annual salary of $49,720.
Salaries can vary greatly between locations. For the most accurate information, explore employment information for your desired position in your city, state or region.
More Career Paths
Other career paths you can pursue with a health informatics education include:
- Health information technician (certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree)
- Health informatics specialist (master’s degree)
- Clinical informatics specialist (master’s degree)
- Health informatics director (master’s degree)
Who is Hiring?
According to 2016 data provided by CEB TalentNeuron™, an employment analytics website, there are more than 1,100 open health informatics jobs in the U.S. Some of the most prominent companies and organizations hiring health informatics professionals included:
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
- Univera Healthcare
- Genzyme Corporation
- University of Washington
Health Informatics Job and Salary Outlook
Because it is such a new field, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has not yet published data about most health informatics careers. There is information from the BLS on Medical and Health Services Managers that is comparable in terms of level of education, experience and scope of work performed that puts the position at a median pay of $94,500 per year with growth projected at 17% through 2024.
CEB TalentNeuron™ data indicates that for upper-level health informatics professionals (those requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher), salaries range from $49,600 (bachelor degree or entry level) to $129,050 (master’s degree, leadership level or more experienced professionals) per year.
How Do I get Started?
Getting started in health informatics requires post-secondary education, although the level varies depending on the type of positions you plan to pursue. Entry-level medical records or health information technician jobs require a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, depending on the organization. Top positions like health informatics analysts, specialists or managers generally require a master’s degree.
Many of those who enter this field already have a healthcare or IT background, and simply need to develop crossover skills. For example, both a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science would make excellent health informatics candidates. Either could earn a health informatics master’s degree and be well on their way to a new career.
Acquiring industry certifications can also be important for health informatics professionals. If you plan to seek entry-level health information technician jobs, becoming a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT®) can greatly improve your employment prospects. Similarly, pursuing advanced positions such as health informatics director may be more successful once you complete your Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA®) certification.