Two years ago, the University of San Diego Extension published a study that named health information technology as the number one “hot career” for college graduates in 2011. The demand for people who are able to help with the transformation of medical records to advanced formats through technology was cited as the reason the career was at the top of their list. Fast-forward to 2013 and it is evident that the University’s top selection was accurate. Health IT is booming with the conversion to EMRs, Meaningful Use, Interoperability, ICD-10, and more. It is thriving so much that healthcare facilities are scrambling to find qualified professionals to fill their vacant positions. A Towers Watson survey of over 100 healthcare providers and hospitals referenced in a Healthcare IT News article showed that 67 percent are having difficulties attracting experienced IT workers and 38 percent are reporting retention concerns. When looking to Epic-certified professionals, the study showed that 73 percent of respondents report difficulty hiring these people.
For H.I.T. consultants looking for work, these numbers are certainly in their favor. However, for healthcare facilities the statistics are alarming. High demand is one aspect that rules the state of health IT jobs today. Let’s examine what else is at play in the industry.
Even though qualified H.I.T. professionals may have an easier time than most finding potential job opportunities, there are still certain places that are better to look than others. HIMSS recently found that the top 10 states searching for health IT talent are:
These areas could be considered great places to look for work whether you live there or are willing to travel (which puts you at another advantage in your job search). However, it is important to remember that remote health IT is also on the rise. The opportunities may be more limited, but there are jobs available.
2. Job Titles
If you are a health IT professional, we have established that you are in high demand. Still, there are some specific areas of health IT that offer particular potential. One of these areas is data analytics due to the immense amount of records, reporting, and analysis surrounding EHRs. As mentioned in our Health IT Trends for 2013 blog post, a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that almost half of the providers surveyed planned to add technical analysts to their staff in the next two years and 35% plan to hire more clinical informaticists. Beyond this, HIMSS interviewed several H.I.T. leaders in an article discussing the most in demand jobs for 2013 and the responses included data analysts, implementation specialists, clinical decision support implementers, and (again) those with experience with healthcare informatics. Also cited were clinical project managers, database administrators, and knowledge engineers.
It is no question that salary is one of the driving concerns when searching for a job. So, where does H.I.T. stand? Surprisingly, a recent IT Salary Survey done by Information Week showed that demand for workers is not necessarily in line with compensation. Health Imaging Hub reviews this salary lag by explaining that the median annual base pay for H.I.T. professionals is $83,000 compared to $87,000 for IT professionals across all industries. In addition, the base pay for H.I.T. professionals did not rise at all from 2012. The report also pointed out that there tend to be fewer bonuses in healthcare and that just four percent of healthcare IT manager compensation is beyond base pay versus eight percent in IT overall. On a more positive note, healthcare IT managers did experience a slight increase in average base pay to $112,000 up from $109,000 in 2012. This was more than the IT industry average for managers which is $110,000. Furthermore, women in health IT are now closer to achieving compensation equality with men. Female IT staffers earn $84,000 in median total compensation while male IT staffers earn $85,000. For managers, women earn $117,000 while men earn $118,000. This income gap is much smaller than the overall IT industry average of 13 percent.
A biennial HIMSS compensation survey last published in 2010 offers some additional notable (though different) statistics regarding salary. It showed that the top five regions in the country with the highest average salary are:
1. Pacific ($126,230)
2. Mid Atlantic ($123,983)
3. New England ($122,962)
4. East South Central ($115,578)
5. South Atlantic ($112, 650)
This survey also showed that the top three average salaries according to the organization’s primary business were 3. Consulting Firm ($124,958), 2. Hardware Company ($126,954), 1. IDS (Integrated Delivery System) ($165,691).
As a health IT professional, there are a wide variety of organizations where you are able to work. Depending on your needs and interests, there should be a place that is right for you. Several of these were mentioned in our salary section, including Integrated Delivery Systems, Hardware Companies, and Consulting Firms. Beyond this, there are opportunities at hospitals (whole systems or stand alones), insurance/payer organizations, ambulatory facilities, physician offices, and software companies. All offer different advantages that may spark your interest.
One of the most important factors surrounding the state of health IT jobs is the issue of certifications. Are they necessary and if so, which do I need? The answer to this question very much contingent on where you would like to work but it is becoming more common for organizations to require relevant certifications. Of course, there are many types of certifications out there. Some coordinate with the software system (exp. Epic certified or credentialed, NextGen certified) and others stem from professional organizations (exp. CPHIMS). It is important to investigate what certifications are in line with your career path and remember that while they may not guarantee job security, certifications can certainly make your more marketable.
There are many factors that are coming together for the state of health IT jobs today. The high demand for these professionals is encouraging and likely to only increase in the future.
Excite Health Partners