How to Become a Director of Information Technology in Healthcare

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A director of information technology in business attire and holding a tablet talks to a doctor in a white coat.It’s the middle of the night when a sleeping hospital patient’s blood pressure suddenly spikes to alarming levels. What happens next?

Information technology will play a key role in alerting hospital staff, informing their decisions and facilitating future treatment for the patient.

In the modern work environment, information technology (IT) is a key driver of functions ranging from communications to data management. And perhaps nowhere is IT’s importance more evident than in the healthcare sector.

In healthcare research and delivery, IT-driven tools like health informatics can improve treatment and save lives. Employing these tools helps ensure effective patient care and the secure use of patient information.

When a hospital patient’s blood pressure rises, for example, a vital sign machine typically captures and reports the data to healthcare professionals—who then analyze this information to quickly diagnose the problem and determine what to do next.

As multiple healthcare providers treat that same patient, IT facilitates the accurate and safe sharing of electronic health records (EHRs) to inform decisions and personalize care across work shifts and medical teams. And later, it’s electronic access to health data that allows that patient to plan for future procedures, track test results and provide medical history updates.

Becoming a director of information technology in a healthcare setting is a great way to combine skills in managing electronic data with a passion for outstanding patient care. An advanced degree in health informatics can be a steppingstone to this leadership role.

Director of Information Technology Job Description

Information technology involves using electronic software and systems to process and share data. Health informatics is the development, management and maintenance of technology systems and patient data.

IT directors collaborate with executives and staff across an organization. They help ensure that technological systems and processes effectively and efficiently transmit data to help departments and organizations meet their goals.

In healthcare, IT directors work in locations such as hospitals, physicians’ offices and urgent care facilities and for government agencies and healthcare technology companies. Following are some key duties and leadership responsibilities found in a typical director of information technology job description.

Director of Information Technology Duties

The integrity of its technology system and network is critical for a healthcare organization working to provide the highest-level care and services. Duties IT directors perform to ensure the technology is secure and working optimally for their healthcare facility include:

  • Supporting data-driven decisions across business operations
  • Providing input on how an organization should collect, share and use information to meet goals
  • Developing enterprise-wide electronic methods for tracking performance
  • Working across departments to determine needs and how the use of data can help in meeting them
  • Testing technology tools to ensure proper levels of quality and security
  • Implementing new IT processes and tools to improve existing technology infrastructures
  • Managing the electronic storage of data

Healthcare IT directors also help ensure the privacy of patients and other customers when transmitting information, in accordance with guidelines such as the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) of 2009.

Director of Information Technology Leadership

Directors of information technology typically lead projects and teams as they guide the effective use of electronic data across an organization. Leadership responsibilities of IT directors include:

  • Establishing plans for providing IT that supports the work of an organization and its departments and leaders
  • Overseeing IT projects that improve an organization’s performance, particularly those that focus on clinical operations and information security
  • Hiring, training and leading IT staff
  • Developing relationships with IT vendors and directing their work
  • Staying abreast of updates to technology processes, equipment and regulations

How to Become an Information Technology Director

Pursuing a role as a healthcare IT director typically requires a master’s-level education, a diverse skill set rooted in technology and interpersonal skills, and experience in other IT roles. Individuals in this position also can pursue professional and educational certifications to bolster their skills and enhance their resumes.

Education Required for Directors of Information Technology

IT directors typically must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a discipline that emphasizes software development, computer programming and math. They often major in computer- or information science-related subjects.

Employers often require IT directors to also hold a master’s degree that provides advanced training in leadership, analysis, technology and communication. Those interested in being a director of IT in the healthcare sector could pursue a graduate degree focused on both technology and healthcare, such as a master’s in health informatics.

Pursuing additional education, taking part in industry conferences and user groups, and joining professional organizations also provide an opportunity to stay abreast of the latest technological developments—and build networks. Professional organizations for IT directors in healthcare include:

  • Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)—Supports the transformation of healthcare through information and technology
  • American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)—Focuses on support for health information professionals
  • American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA)—Commits to improving patient care through informatics
  • American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA)—Advances the integration of nursing science, computer science and information science

Skills Directors of Information Technology Need

Among the technical areas in which IT directors need expertise are IT security, and infrastructure and network management. Additionally, because their role requires navigating a variety of issues among diverse groups, directors of information technology need skills grounded in diplomacy, patience and working well with others.

In fact, even with their technology-related responsibilities, IT directors with strong people management skills are those who frequently enjoy above-average salaries, according to employment website Indeed. The following are areas in which IT directors often are especially skilled:

  • AnalysisEvaluating the networks’ and systems’ performance and determining how to protect data and address the evolving needs of staff and patients
  • CommunicationDescribing IT issues in a way that’s clear to those without technological expertise and working across departments according to established clinical workflows
  • Decision-makingDetermining what steps to take and resources to allocate to address organizational goals and technological issues
  • LeadershipManaging and directing IT staff and providing technology guidance across the organization
  • MultitaskingJuggling multiple concerns and projects related to technology and healthcare priorities and the considerations of patients and internal personnel
  • BusinessEstablishing strategic plans and directing work to reach departmental and organizational goals
  • Problem-solvingResolving issues that arise with computer networks and systems, and working toward collaborative solutions

Experience Expectations for Directors of Information Technology

Becoming a director of information technology generally requires experience in other IT roles, such as information security analyst or network systems administrator. Information security analysts plan and implement security for an organization’s computer networks and systems. Network systems administrators guide the everyday operations of an organization’s computer networks.

IT director positions typically call for five or more years in management positions. Their experience should include managing:

  • Hardware, software and vendors
  • Technology and information security
  • Clinical systems
  • Projects and teams

Licenses and Certifications for Directors of Information Technology

Information technology directors are often certified in areas such as project management and infosecurity. For example, IT directors in healthcare could earn a certified information systems security professional (CISSP) or healthcare security and privacy practitioner (HCISPP) certification. These designations, through (ISC)2, require professionals to have work experience and pass an exam.

IT directors also may earn certifications in the technology products they use, with training offered through the product companies. Additionally, post-baccalaureate and master’s certificates are available in areas such as health informatics.

Director of Information Technology Jobs in Healthcare

In healthcare, directors of information technology support clinical services for inpatients and urgent care as well as nonclinical processes and help desk services. Their work helps streamline patient care, maintain and manage patient data, and improve patient outcomes.

Director of Information Technology Benefits to Healthcare

Whether they’re offering healthcare professionals useful technology or securing patient data, IT directors have a valuable role. Their work benefits healthcare outcomes through:

  • Gathering accurate and complete patient histories
  • Sharing electronic data securely internally and with patients
  • Personalizing patient care
  • Facilitating telemedicine services
  • Coordinating care
  • Diagnosing health problems quickly
  • Promoting safe care
  • Reducing the incidence of hospital readmissions
  • Enabling remote patient health monitoring
  • Reducing errors in treatment
  • Easing the use of technology tools
  • Ensuring smooth data recovery
  • Improving research capabilities
  • Lowering technology costs

By properly managing the employment of IT tools that provide precise and secure medical information, IT directors can help ensure high-quality, cost-effective care. For example, a blood glucose monitor that accurately provides regular updates to patients and care providers facilitates timely treatment—and its emphasis on preventive care can save money for healthcare providers and patients alike.

Director of Information Technology Support for Healthcare Services

Healthcare IT directors play a key part in maintaining smooth organizational operations, from guiding data-driven decision-making to leading day-to-day technology support.

For example, information technology is a key factor in collecting quality images from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedures, facilitating proper diagnoses and alerting providers to any potential future health concerns. At the same time, everyday office processes like submitting invoices and scheduling appointments rely on IT tools to provide the best experience for healthcare facilities, partners and patients.

Among the healthcare tasks IT directors’ work supports are:

  • Guiding network function and security
  • Documenting patient information
  • Planning in-patient diets
  • Billing for services
  • Collecting lab results
  • Recording patient progress
  • Providing imaging services
  • Filling prescription orders
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Maintaining patient portals
  • Accessing patient data
  • Completing payroll services
  • Sending emails and instant messages

Director of Information Technology Healthcare Roles

In healthcare, director of information technology jobs can be in traditional settings such as hospitals and physicians’ offices or in nonclinical locations such as healthcare companies and agencies. Following are some healthcare-related organizations that employ IT directors.

Director of Information Technology in Traditional Healthcare Settings

Large medical facilities as well as smaller private practices are among the traditional healthcare providers who rely on technology support to provide high-quality care.

This typically includes support for clinical operations, including the secure collection of testing and treatment data. Among the traditional workplaces for healthcare IT directors are:

  • Hospitals
  • Universities
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Clinics
  • Care facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Medical organizations
  • Nonprofits

Director of Information Technology in Nontraditional Healthcare Settings

While not working in a patient care setting, healthcare IT directors employed in areas such as insurance and pharmaceuticals also help advance positive patient outcomes.

Efforts like insurance claims processing and software distribution support the work of the medical field—whether IT directors are leading the development of tools to inform decisions about healthcare policy or about new medications. Nontraditional settings for healthcare IT directors include:

  • Insurance companies
  • Technology firms
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Public health departments
  • Public policy and government offices

Director of Information Technology Salary

Robust average salary and job growth data are further evidence of the value of IT roles and the IT director position. And the growth of technology in healthcare and other sectors point to continued growth in demand for IT support.

Director of Information Technology Median Pay

Although factors such as education, experience and location can affect salary figures, the median annual salary of information technology directors in June 2021, according to PayScale, was around $118,700. The highest 10% of earners received a salary of more than $171,000. When adding pay for bonuses, profit sharing and commissions, director of information technology salaries were as much as $193,000.

Pay by Experience Level for Directors of Information Technology

PayScale’s salary reports for June 2021 categorize compensation according to experience level. Median annual salaries for IT directors, according to experience, were approximately:

  • Less than a year—$77,000
  • One to four years—$82,400
  • Five to nine years—$98,400
  • 10 to 19 years—$121,000
  • 20 or more years—$129,300

Impact of Education on Salary

Education level also affects salaries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For example, for jobs overall in the United States in May 2020, the BLS reported, master’s degree holders earned nearly $250 more each week than those whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s degree holders earned more than $500 more each week than those whose highest degree was a high school diploma.

Highest-Paying Geographic Areas for Directors of Information Technology

PayScale also publishes data about the highest-paying locations for IT directors. In June 2021, information technology directors in Virginia and California posted average salaries that were at least 40% greater than the national average for that position.

In McLean, Va., for example, IT directors earned 52% more than the national average. In Fremont, Calif., directors of information technology earned 50% above the average.

Director of Information Technology Projected Job Growth

The BLS projected a job growth of 11% for all information technology positions between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the 4% anticipated growth for all professions. Among the reasons for the increasing demand for IT professionals is an expanding emphasis on cloud computing, or the use of multiple data centers that provide information for access through the internet. The transmission of electronic health records, or EHRs, for example, can happen through cloud computing or through on-site servers.

Other drivers of this anticipated growth are the increasing collection and storage of electronic data as well as a focus on information security. In healthcare, the market size of EHRs was $26.8 billion in 2020, according to Grand View Research. The firm predicts a 3.7% increase in EHR market size between 2021 and 2028. The 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 calls for standardization of these records and easier access for consumers.

A Healthcare Role That Shapes the Future

Information technology plays an important role in today’s world. And in healthcare, with each new tool for monitoring health and each new device for sharing data, IT’s importance expands. If you’re ready for a leadership role in an in-demand field that allows you to use IT skills to help improve people’s health, explore the University of Illinois at Chicago’s online Master of Science in Health Informatics program.

The program will help you advance your electronic data management skills while developing your healthcare knowledge and leadership abilities. Whether you pursue a concentration in consumer and mobile health, health data science or leadership, you’ll gain the expertise to help make a real difference in healthcare.

Discover how the University of Illinois at Chicago’s online Master of Science in Health Informatics program can help you pursue your professional goals.

Recommended Readings

5 Ways Technology Is Improving Health

What Is Health Data Science?

Ethics of Wearables: How Health Providers Use Health Data Insights from Wellness Technology

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