Where the Jobs Are
The Affordable Care Act is creating a healthcare job boom. ABC News recently highlighted a Bureau of Labor Statistics projection report listing 12 healthcare careers expected to see strong growth, including dental hygienists, occupational therapists, and physician assistants. But there is also a growing need for professionals who collect, manage, and transfer the vital patient information that healthcare providers use to improve patient care—and growth in this area of healthcare should not be underestimated.
“If you look at that list, way down near the bottom, you find ‘medical records technician,’” said Frank Waterstraat, program manager for the University of Wisconsin online Health Information Management and Technology (HIMT) program. “In reality, this is a clerical position associated with paper medical records, and it belies the incredible growth the health information field will see in the next ten years as a result of the transition from paper to electronic health records (EHRs).”
Waterstraat says this transition will boost demand for a variety of well-paying positions, from health information managers and privacy officers to IS/IT directors and coding professionals.
“Paper medical records account for approximately 40 percent of the health data recorded today. The real growth is in the collection, storage, security, and transfer of electronic health records, which account for 55 percent of all healthcare data being recorded today.”
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HIMT: The Changing Landscape for Career Opportunities
Waterstraat says the transition to electronic health records is dramatically changing the necessary skills and number of workers needed in the health information field. This shift in required skill sets has opened up a new world of opportunities for current and future health information professionals, including jobs focused on technology administration and data analytics, that have never existed before.
“The next ten years will see unprecedented demand for highly skilled HIMT professionals who understand not only the management, coding, and transfer of electronic health data, but also how to build and use the software and systems to manage, retrieve, and analyze data to drive improvements in patient care,” Waterstraat says.
Starting Your HIM/HIT Career
The UW HIMT program was specifically designed to address the healthcare industry’s emerging needs in the areas of reimbursement, information release, patient security, and using data to measure healthcare quality and reduce costs. The program teaches skill sets such as systems analysis and design, project management, and system development and integration, in addition to focusing on the continued importance of privacy and security in electronic information systems.
Waterstraat notes the greater demand for jobs with more specialized skills means salaries for new graduates associated with the EHR job opportunities will be higher as well.
A University of Wisconsin Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management and Technology can be the foundation for a variety of positions (shown here with average yearly salaries from American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA) 2010 Salary Study): IS/IT director ($105,158), consultant ($88,285), security officer ($85,076), compliance officer ($79,675), HIM director ($79,450), privacy officer ($74,781), manager ($67,478), technology support ($63,582), supervisor ($52,971), and coding professional ($45,607).
“As much as the profession has changed, there’s a component of it that remains the same,” Waterstraat says. “And yes, there’s a whole new range of never-seen-before positions that provide new dimensions and opportunities in the profession.”