The Best IT Jobs in Healthcare: What They’re About and How to Get Them

Illustration of heart rate monitor line with tech symbols.

With the conversion to electronic records, the push for healthcare reform, and the aging population, chances are good that IT jobs in healthcare will be plentiful for years to come.

And that’s not just based on assumptions: The statistics and research bear it out, too. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare IT jobs are expected to be one of the fastest-growing occupational groups from 2014 to 2024.  And in the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide, healthcare is cited as the fastest-growing industry in IT in seven of nine regions across the United States. In the other two regions, it’s number two.

So why are IT jobs in healthcare some of the hottest tech positions today? And how can IT professionals launch careers in healthcare? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

What’s driving the demand for healthcare IT professionals?

As hospitals and providers aim to increase efficiency, improve patient care and promote innovation, they’re looking to technology experts for help. In addition, over the past few years, medical organizations have been racing to comply with the new laws and regulations surrounding the healthcare industry. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, for one, required hospitals and other providers to show “meaningful use” of electronic records by 2015 or lose some of their Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements.

Even though most major compliance deadlines have passed, many organizations in the medical industry are still working to develop and improve their systems. “In general, the healthcare industry is farther behind other industries when it comes to IT infrastructure,” says Tim Webb, Robert Half Technology’s practice director for enterprise technology services. “And now that electronic medical records are mandated, it’s like trying to sprint when you’ve never learned to walk.”

According to Webb, there simply aren’t enough people with the experience and background to take on many IT jobs in healthcare, which is driving up demand for skilled talent.

What are some of the hottest healthcare IT jobs now?

Webb cites these three positions as the top IT jobs in healthcare now:

  • Software developer: Professionals with this job title build, implement and maintain the software governing healthcare operations for hospitals and other medical organizations – in particular, electronic medical record and electronic health record (EMR/EHR) systems. Organizations are also looking for program directors and project managers to lead teams of developers.
  • Instructional designer: These IT professionals develop and implement the programs that train doctors, nurses and non-clinical staff (such as medical coders, billing staff and others on the business side) how to use the medical organization’s EMR/EHR systems.
  • Data analyst: Healthcare organizations need people who can sort through the large amount of data that hospitals and providers generate these days and find trends that they can report to the business side, along with suggestions for process improvements.

What skills does it take to get a healthcare IT job?

Of course, IT professionals who have experience with the most commonly used EMR/EHR systems, like Epic, Cerner and Meditech, are in high demand. But because these skills are in low supply, hospitals and other medical providers are willing to train people who can demonstrate that they have technical aptitude, particularly if they also have a clinical background.

That means that they’ll hire recent college graduates with an IT degree or a background in IT (maybe in data analytics or data flow). They’ll also consider hiring nurses and other clinicians who have experience working with EMR/EHR systems from the end-user side, because these medical professionals clearly understand the typical hospital workflow and often have ideas about how the systems can be improved to enhance efficiency and patient experience.

“It’s similar to IT around the dot-com boom and bust — companies are hiring people and training them,” Webb says. “You see a lot of hospitals that will sponsor individuals who have a general understanding of how systems work.”

Medical organizations also value IT professionals with good problem-solving abilities and strong collaboration skills, as they are expected to work with doctors, nurses and other clinicians while developing healthcare IT systems.

How can a person with no healthcare experience break into the field?

Many of the most skilled healthcare IT professionals prefer to work on a contract basis, moving from one organization to another, building different EMR/EHR systems and getting experience on several different platforms.

That means medical organizations will consider technology professionals with little or no experience in healthcare for the full-time and contract-to-hire positions open in their companies. A specialized recruiter can help connect motivated professionals with the right healthcare IT jobs for them.

 

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