Within the last few decades, the healthcare field has undergone several kinds of transformations. Factors that have influenced its current state include rising costs, the advent of innovative technologies, a desire to expand to reach underserved populations and changing regulations. While the future remains uncertain in some respects, other indicators point to an increasing need for professionals with advanced technological knowledge and skills. In this new environment, the presence of more health informatics experts becomes salient.
Health Informatics: A Growing Field
Information technology professionals already contribute to the maintenance and operation of network and computer systems vital to delivering patient care. However, there is more to the technological picture than that. Newer innovations, along with the need for compliance with federal standards for patient records, have given birth to a new field known as health informatics. This multidisciplinary field aims to help providers achieve higher quality, greater efficiency, lower costs and a wider reach of its services. It is a distinctive blending of computer and information science, business administration and social sciences.
Health informatics is partially responsible for the move to give people digital access to their medical data, as confirmed by a March 2014 U.S. News and World Report article. One example of this is the OSUMyChart app through which patients in The Ohio State University medical system can get in touch with their physicians, schedule appointments, see test results, request medication refills and view other parts of their medical records. Additionally, Deloitte’s 2016 Health Care Providers Industry Outlook points to increasing employment of digital media, health technologies and mobile devices to provide care.
Returning to School Now May Be a Smart Move
Health informatics professionals will be needed to collaborate with management and develop systems and strategies like these. Several graduate schools offer programs in the field, particularly ones that allow learners to earn a health informatics degree online. These curricula typically merge virtual classroom learning with hands-on practical experience, enabling students to apply principles learned in real-world situations. Typically, these programs offer master’s degrees, which not only sharpen up a resume but permit the kind of advanced studies needed to learn valuable problem-solving skills. As healthcare information systems become more complex, these abilities become more critical.
Graduates are generally rewarded with promising job prospects and salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics groups health informatics workers under the general career category of medical and health services managers, with the BLS projecting an employment growth rate of 17 percent until the year 2024. The median average salary for this category was $94,500 in 2015, and most new matriculants can expect an annual starting pay of $69,000. Those are pretty healthy numbers by most people’s standards and should be one incentive to pursue a career in the field, along with the desire to put one’s skills to use.
Want to Pursue a Degree? Here’s What You Need to Do Next
It’s critical to begin your planning now if you intend to pursue a health informatics degree online. Admissions requirements for each school vary, but you’ll likely need to obtain transcripts of your previous college work, along with recommendation letters and a personal essay. Depending on the program, you might need to take a graduate admissions exam and submit your scores. Lastly, don’t ignore the financial variable of the equation, and consider applying for federal aid, employer tuition reimbursement programs, scholarships and other available funding sources.
Health informatics is becoming an expanding, lucrative profession. As medical providers and other organizations need professionals to develop innovative strategies for patient care, more graduates will be needed to meet these ongoing demands. Pursuing a master’s degree in this field is likely to lead to better career opportunities, so returning to school might be the wisest decision you make for your career.