What Can You Do with a Degree in Health Informatics?
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Opportunities for people with degrees in health informatics are expected to skyrocket in coming years. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) anticipates that openings for medical records and health information technicians will increase 15 percent nationwide between 2014 and 2024. This represents 29,000 fresh positions across the country. During that time period, the average growth across all occupations is expected to be only 7 percent. And medical recording is only one of the high-growth career fields open to people with health informatics degrees. Medical and health service managers, for example, typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in health informatics or a related field. Openings for these professionals are expected to increase an impressive 17 percent between 2014 and 2024 (BLS 2015). Furthermore, the University of San Francisco (USF) anticipates that broad areas such as health data analyses, health informatics, and nursing informatics are poised to explode in coming years as the healthcare IT environment continues to evolve and progress.
So why are people with training in this field so in demand? There are several forces contributing to this bright career outlook, including the rapidly evolving medical technologies and systems (i.e., electronic health records); an aging US population; and the wider availability of health insurance for Americans with the adoption of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Also, this field occupies the intersection of two hot disciplines—technology and healthcare—combining skills such as systems management, coding, and organizational analyses.
In some cases, the options available to a recent grad in a given industry may not always be obvious. This is a guide to several of the promising careers open to people with degrees in health informatics, as well as a discussion of the typical responsibilities and salary prospects for each job.
Health Informatics Specialist
Level of Education Required: Bachelor’s degree
What They Do: A health informatics specialist works as a medium between clinical practice and information technology (IT) departments. They may assist in determining what type of information technology should be used in order to achieve a healthcare provider’s objectives. These tech-savvy professionals may also create manuals and train others on the adopted IT systems, liaising between software vendors, the IT department, and clinical personnel. Finally, a health informatics specialist must offer administrative support, troubleshooting problems that arise with the IT systems, as well as remain up-to-date on any developments in technology or regulations.
Expected Salary: While the salary of a health informatics specialist varies based on location, experience, and other factors, PayScale (Sept. 2016)—an aggregator of self-reported wages—found that these professionals had a median annual salary of $60,692. Not surprisingly, as they progress in their careers, health information specialists receive higher salaries. Here is a look at PayScale’s salary percentiles in this field:
- 10th percentile: $41,000
- 25th percentile: $50,000
- 50th percentile (median): $60,692
- 75th percentile: $78,000
- 90th percentile: $96,000
Health Informatics Manager (a.k.a. Clinical Informatics Manager)
Level of Education Required: Graduate certificate or master’s degree preferred
What They Do: Health informatics managers and directors operate at a managerial or executive level, and are generally responsible for implementing a health informatics system. They ensure the smooth adoption of the technology, periodically assessing the needs of the clinical facility and using that to develop or modify a customized IT solution. Clinical informatics managers must present systems to medical personnel, and assist in training them to use it. They work with a wide range of other technology and clinical professionals—data quality associates, drug safety specialists, developers, etc.—to make the IT systems as seamless and effective as possible. After monitoring the success of the system for a period of time to determine if it’s appropriate for a given healthcare setting, the manager will, if necessary, oversee the implementation of any enhancements or adjustments. Finally, depending on the size of the clinical facility, these professionals might also manage a team of health informatics and nurse informatics specialists.
Expected Salary: As with other roles, the expected salary for this position depends on the employer, as well as the candidate’s level of education and experience. This is one of the more lucrative careers for people with degrees in healthcare informatics and related fields; by illustration, PayScale (Sept. 2016) found that the median salary for clinical informatics managers in the United States is $91,653 and had the following percentiles:
- 10th percentile: $61,000
- 25th percentile: $78,000
- 50th percentile (median): $91,653
- 75th percentile: $110,000
- 90th percentile: $120,000
Clinical Informatics Data Analyst
Level of Education Required: Bachelor’s degree in health informatics
What They Do: A clinical data informatics analyst works directly with the IT system implemented by a director or manager and performs a variety of tasks related to the data acquisition, storage, and use. Specifically, they must assess the methods of data acquisition in a clinical setting, as well as how the data is documented, mapped, and analyzed. Furthermore, a clinical informatics data analyst often performs a quality assurance role, ensuring that the data documentation and integration processes are efficient and meet the needs of the organization. Above all, they monitor systems to guarantee that the acquisition, storage, and maintenance methods of healthcare data are performed in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and other relevant healthcare legislation.
Expected Salary: Data from PayScale (Sept. 2016) shows that the median salary for entry level clinical analysts is $65,751, although those working in the field for over 20 years have the potential to earn a median of $74,000. Here were the detailed salary percentiles for clinical informatics analysts:
- 10th percentile: $46,000
- 25th percentile: $54,000
- 50th percentile (median): $65,751
- 75th percentile: $78,000
- 90th percentile: $90,000
Medical Coding Specialist
Level of Education Required: High school diploma or GED; associate degree preferred
What They Do: Medical coding specialists take information presented to them by healthcare professionals and translate it into an alphanumeric code to facilitate recordkeeping, particularly in electronic health records (EHR) systems. They enter codes for various activities into IT systems such as procedures, diagnoses, and treatments, which is critical for patients, insurers, and other healthcare personnel. Medical coding specialists must have an extensive knowledge of the various diagnoses presented by healthcare professionals, and must be adept at using the coding software in order to ensure the information is correctly entered into the system. They also may be able to increase their salary by obtaining a number of certifications, such as the Certified Coding Specialist certification through the American Health Information Management Association. Finally, they must keep abreast of any developments in coding systems, including the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) or the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT).
Expected Salary: According Indeed (2016), the average salary for all coding specialist positions is $39,000 per year. Interestingly, these figures vary based on source of data. Payscale (Sept. 2016) found that these workers made an average hourly salary of $16.54. In annual salary terms, here were the salaries for medical coding specialists:
- 10th percentile: $24,000
- 25th percentile: $31,000
- 50th percentile (median): $40,126
- 75th percentile: $47,000
- 90th percentile: $56,000
Healthcare IT Project Manager
Level of Education Required: Bachelor’s degree in a business or IT-related field, as well as graduate-level additional education in project management (preferred)
What They Do: Healthcare IT project managers are responsible for managing large-scale projects as they relate to both healthcare and information technology. A healthcare IT project manager will facilitate all aspects of the project, from assigning various tasks to the members of the team to troubleshooting any issues that arise prior to completion. These professionals strive to complete the projects in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible, constantly moving to streamline the completion project from all angles while ensuring quality results. They’re often called upon to assist in the implementation of a new IT system in a given clinical facility. Finally, these PMs are tasked with the ongoing management and assessment of these systems as other staff and personnel adapt.
Expected Salary: The University of South Florida reported that the average annual salary of a healthcare IT project manager was around $102,000, according to data taken from Indeed (June 2015).
Nurse Informatics Specialist (a.k.a. Nurse Informatician or Nurse Informaticist)
Level of Education Required: Bachelor’s degree in the field of nursing, as well as additional education and/or training in information technology or computer science
What They Do: Nurse informatics specialists help integrate the field of nursing with communication technologies to help individuals and families. They develop effective information technology systems, and may work in a variety of different areas, including healthcare settings, academia, or even for private businesses. A nurse informaticist may help implement and evaluate an electronic health record system, playing an integral role in the application of IT systems in capturing the performance analytics of clinical and administrative personnel. Furthermore, these professionals help other nurses adapt to current and future IT systems as they relate to patient care.
Expected Salary: According to a 2014 survey conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the average salary for someone in this position was $100,717. More contemporary data from Payscale (Sept. 2016) found the following salary percentiles among its nursing informatics respondents:
- 10th percentile: $52,000
- 25th percentile: $62,000
- 50th percentile (median): $75,196
- 75th percentile: $86,000
- 90th percentile: $99,000
Other Jobs Available in the Health Informatics Field
These are only a few of the employment opportunities available to people with a background in healthcare informatics. Monster (2016) covers additional professions such as informatics nursing and clinical informatics specialists. While there may be overlapping responsibilities among the varied job titles—health informatics consultants, electronic medical record keepers, and others—one thing is for sure: people with skills at the intersection of technology and healthcare are expected to have ample job openings available to them in years to come.