Health informatics among fastest-growing fields

Health informatics is a hot field with rising skill levels in demand, a new study confirms. The good news is that professionals can gain the necessary credentials mid-career.

The report was prepared by Burning Glass, a labor market analytics firm, for Credentials that Work, an initiative that helps colleges match their offerings to job demand.

It found that between 2007 to 2011,  job postings for positions in healthcare informatics grew by 36 percent, compared with a 9 percent growth in all healthcare postings, and 6 percent increase in all U.S. jobs. And informatics positions now constitute the eighth-largest share of healthcare occupation postings.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks only one type of health informatics occupation, that of medical records and health information technician, it fails to track 40 percent of health informatics occupations, including health information supervisors and managers, auditors and compliance review staff, and clinical documentation and improvement specialists.

The jobs are becoming more sophisticated with increasing need to document both efficiency and medical outcomes. As a result, requirements for entry-level positions have been upgraded and clinical expertise has become a requirement for higher-level health information management jobs.

As an example, it says there are fewer postings for medical records clerks, corresponding with a significant increase for medical coder positions. Certification is becoming the norm with 60 percent of  medical coder ads requiring or preferring this formal training. Medical coders, though, can spend a year becoming a Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) with a year of study followed by the national exam, and a two-year degree and a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification opens up a range of mid-level technician and supervisory positions, the report says.

Meanwhile, six of the fastest-growing job titles are related to clinical documentation and analysis. These positions tend to stress clinical experience or an advanced degree, with less emphasis on formal certification in health informatics.

New programs in health informatics are popping up, such as online programs at Northwestern and Southern New Hampshire University. Arizona State University, meanwhile, is creating a multidisciplinary department called the College of Health Solutions, which will bring in the technical aspects as well as the clinical.

A recent PwC informatics survey found all segments of the healthcare industry hiring HIT staff, especially technical staff.

To help people locate training programs, the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) recently launched an academic directory on its State HIT Dashboard. It includes the many community-college programs funded through ONC, though hospital executives say they need people with more experience and skills than those six-month programs provide.

To learn more:
- here's the Jobs for the Future summary
- download the full report
- find a program through HIMSS
- check out the Arizona State University announcement
- here's the Southern New Hampshire release