Do I Have What It Takes to Be a Healthcare Informatic?

Healthcare informatic jobs have become increasingly more important to the healthcare industry in the United States as hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and pharmacists rely more heavily on electronic databases and communication. Informatic specialists must have a careful attention to detail, be self-motivated and exercise careful discretion concerning patient information. Here’s a close look at careers in this emerging job market:

Paraprofessional Informatic Specialists

You can become a health informations technician with an associate’s degree or a certificate in health information technology. Generally, your studies will include classes on medical terminology, coding and classification systems, healthcare reimbursement, computer usage, health data standards and requirements, and healthcare statistics. Most employers also require a professional certification. Required or recommended certifications will vary depending on the healthcare specialization you choose and include certification as a Registered Health Information Technician, Certified Tumor Registrar, and Certified Coding Specialist.

Every informatics specialist must have

  • Sharp analytical skills for understanding diagnoses and determining correct codes for medical billing and records
  • Careful attention to detail to ensure utmost accuracy in record keeping and coding
  • Discretion in order to keep patient information confidential
  • Interpersonal skills necessary to discuss patient information, discrepancies in records, and other details of the job with physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals
  • Technical skills to effectively use computers and software

Professional Informatics Specialists

Many nurses are now being asked to become professional informatics specialists. These are not entry-level positions, and RNs must have several years of nursing experience as well as education in information systems in order to qualify for a nursing informatic position. In addition to professional positions for nurses, the field of health information technology (HIT) also has positions available for college graduates with bachelor’s degrees in HIT.

Annual salaries for these professional positions are significantly higher than those for paraprofessional informatics workers. An informatics nursing specialist can easily earn between $69,000 and $80,000 a year while the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the median pay for paraprofessionals in May of 2012 at only $34,160.

Who Hires Healthcare Informatic Specialists

In a healthcare informatics career, you can work for a variety of different types of employers. Doctors’ offices, dental offices, clinics, and hospitals all hire specialists in healthcare information technology. With this career, you could also work in public health, physical or occupational therapy, medical research, or alternative medicine. With a master’s degree in healthcare informatics, you could get a position with one of the larger Electronic Health Records (EHR) companies such as Cerner or Medisys. These companies also often have job listings for advanced HIT positions at various healthcare providers listed on their websites.

EHR has the potential to greatly improve patient care and communication about patient history between healthcare providers. If you want to be a part of this process, a career as a healthcare informatic could be right for you. Since there are careers available on a variety of professional and paraprofessional levels, the amount of schooling you get in order to embark on this career is entirely up to you.