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The College of St. Scholastica

The rapid growth of modern day technology has everyone talking about big data—the process of collecting and analyzing colossal amounts of data in order to drive insights and formulate strategy. Big data is a tsunami-style trend that is rapidly drenching industries of all kinds. And all indications suggest that big data has officially arrived on the shores of healthcare.

So what are the health informatics implications of this tidal wave of data?

Health informatics is a profession that focuses on collecting, processing, analyzing and storing massive amounts of patient information in an electronic format. And the implications of big data on the health informatics field stretch much further than simply updating electronic recordkeeping systems.

A 2014 Burning Glass report outlines the changing landscape of health informatics and what it means for healthcare organizations, educational institutions and jobseekers alike. We dug into the report to identify the key points as they apply to healthcare hopefuls like you. Here is what we found.

What you need to know about the future of health informatics

The basics

One of the most notable findings in the Burning Glass report is encouraging for health informatics hopefuls: The demand for health informatics workers is projected to grow 22 percent through 2018—more than twice the rate of growth for all industries. That translates to more than 40,000 new jobs generated in the field.

Health informatics jobs include everything from billing to medical quality assurance. Potential job titles for informatics degree-holders include but are not limited to the following:

  • Informatics nurse
  • Medical coder
  • Health informatics specialist
  • Clinical informatics specialist
  • Clinical analyst
  • Clinical informatics manager  

Regardless of job title, informatics professionals’ duties include implementing health information technology (HIT) systems to integrate electronic health records, thus increasing the amount of data gathered and improving patient care as a result. And because the data is stored digitally, it can be re-used for research purposes.  

The skill gap

The rapid rate of growth for informatics jobs in healthcare settings is an encouraging statistic for hopefuls looking to enter the field. But, the Burning Glass report reveals medical coders—the largest health informatics occupation—are among the positions considered hardest to fill. These job postings remain open longer than many others because employers are struggling to find qualified candidates.

But there is another prominent skill gap within health informatics that experts are beginning to shed light on. The field has had the opportunity to cover the early stages of the data analytics movement in healthcare in recent years. It has taken a considerable amount of time to get the necessary enterprise data management and governance in place, but now that leading healthcare organizations are beyond that, greater importance falls on the stewardship of that data.

The lack of qualified data analysts in these healthcare settings is becoming a massive problem in the informatics field. The unique blend of data analysis and clinical expertise is rare among healthcare hopefuls. For that reason, this is an area that academic programs are sure to address in the coming years as they train up-and-coming health informatics professionals.

The implications

Higher education institutions nationwide are aligning their curricula with the increasingly difficult certification regimens required of the field. These changes will likely increase institutional pass rates, thus producing qualified candidates for the growing number of vacant positions cited in the report.

The good news for job seekers and upperclassmen looking to join the workforce is that academic programs have greatly widened their focus on transferable skills. This will result in not only an increase in highly-qualified job candidates, but also in a versatile range of expanded skill sets that can be applied to many different positions in the future.

The credentials acquired as a result of today’s health informatics programs are considered both “portable” and “stackable,” according to Burning Glass. This means they are widely trusted by a broad range of employers, and they are also eligible to build onto one another, enabling workers to advance progressively to more reputable, higher-paying jobs.

Are you who the industry is seeking?

The increased focus on big data is not an attempt to overcomplicate the healthcare industry—it was designed to improve it. And as a result, the demand for health informatics jobs is projected to remain strong.

This shift also signifies an increase in health informatics salaries as well as new and exciting opportunities for career advancement. Workers starting out as health information clerks or medical coders can take advantage of clearly defined pathways that will let them move into senior roles and receive the higher salaries that accompany them, according to Burning Glass.

Whether you are explicitly drawn to the field of health informatics or you are simply attracted to a career path that blends quality healthcare and innovative technology, now is the time to pursue a career in HIT. Visit CSS’ master’s in health informatics program page to connect with a representative who can help you map out your path to informatics career success.