How to Become an EHR Consultant and Pursue a Career in Health Information Management

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An EHR consultant talks with a healthcare worker while sitting at a table.

An EHR consultant is an information technology (IT) professional who works with healthcare providers to plan, design and implement electronic health record (EHR) systems, as well as train others in how to use them. EHRs have become integral to modern healthcare. They allow a patient’s information to be shared across providers and systems, and patients can use them to access their lab results and track their health.

Financial government incentives are available to providers who adopt EHR practices. As a result, providers big and small are seeking to implement, upgrade or optimize their EHR systems, and EHR consultants are in high demand.

In the current healthcare landscape, EHR implementation and improvement has taken on a new urgency as providers confront health crises. EHR consultants are helping providers to manage workflow adjustments. Advances in EHR, such as screening tools and the expansion of telehealth, are being tested and rolled out quickly to meet recent challenges and better serve patients.

EHR consultants help healthcare organizations succeed in their adoption and use of this technology. They should have at least an undergraduate degree in a computer-related discipline and can increase their career opportunities with an advanced degree in health information.

What Is an EHR Consultant’s Job Description?

Identifying, implementing, learning and maintaining an EHR system is a massive undertaking for any healthcare organization—even more so when it does not have its own IT team. The endeavor can take months to complete and cost millions of dollars. A skilled EHR consultant can determine the project’s success or failure.

The EHR consultant works with management to assess the client’s needs, advises on and helps select the right EHR systems provider, and collaborates with the team to customize and implement the system. This may involve first surveying and interviewing staff members to get their input on needs and expectations and then training staff, from the front desk and billing department to the clinicians.

  • Implementation. Implementation may involve the migration of sensitive data to the new system, as well as a temporary drop in productivity, which the consultant can help the organization to navigate. The EHR consultant should be able to provide a cost-benefit analysis and set realistic expectations of the return on investment.
  • Existing systems. The EHR consultant may also be brought in to solve a problem with existing systems. They will identify the issue and propose solutions.

The EHR consultant may work directly for the medical software system vendor or for a third-party consulting firm, in which case they can be the liaison to the vendor. The EHR consultant may also oversee upgrades and provide ongoing tech support. They are also responsible for making sure software is secure and compliant with all applicable regulations.

Developing Skills for an EHR Consultant Career

The EHR consultant oversees and facilitates a smooth transition, guiding the client through any confusion or frustration, which requires a specific skill set.

Communication skills. Excellent communication and listening skills are necessary when working with multiple clients with varying needs and levels of technological expertise. An effective EHR consultant possesses adaptability, flexibility, patience and stamina. They should also be detail-oriented and highly organized. An aptitude for hands-on problem solving is also desirable.

Multitasking and organization. An EHR consultant often works with several clients simultaneously. Some client support can be provided remotely, but EHR consultants are often required to travel extensively, sometimes flying to multiple cities in the course of a week. This kind of demanding work schedule requires good time management and the ability to work with minimal oversight. A traveling EHR consultant can live anywhere in the country and doesn’t necessarily need to report to an office regularly.

How to Become an EHR Consultant

An EHR consultant is expected to have a strong foundation in IT skills, with a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, business or computer programming. Potential employers and clients may also prefer a candidate with an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Health Information Management. Two major EHR software vendors are Epic and Oracle, and certification in their software is often a requirement.

EHR consultant is a demanding job with great responsibility. As a result, top EHR consultants are well compensated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for medical and health services managers was $99,730 per year, as of May 2018. The BLS projects employment in this field to grow by 18% from 2018 to 2028, as the widespread use of EHRs will likely continue to create demand for managers with IT knowledge. Consultants can be compensated hourly or paid a salary.

Learn How to Achieve Your Professional Goal as an EHR Consultant

EHR consultancy is an exciting, growing field. The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Master of Science in Health Information Management can help prepare you for success as an EHR consultant. The curriculum provides a solid grounding in the complex, ever-evolving field of health information, including a focus on electronic health records, as well as the legal, security and ethical issues associated with them. Learn how the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Master of Science in Health Information Management can help you achieve your professional goals.

Recommended Readings

Is a Career as a Director of Health Information Management Right for Me? 

Growing Your Career in Health Information Management

5 Common Settings for an HIM Career

Sources:

Becker’s Hospital Review, “How Providence Outfitted Its EHR Within 24 Hours of Its 1st COVID-19 Patient”

Becker’s Hospital Review, “How Allscripts, Cerner, Epic & Meditech Are Working With Hospitals on COVID-19 Response”

EHRintelligence.com, “3 Strategies to Enhance EHR Usability Through EHR Optimization”

EHRintelligence.com, “Respondents Preferred Third-Party Consulting Firms Over Cerner’s In-House EHR Implementation and IT Advisory Services”

HealthIT.gov, What Is an Electronic Health Record (EHR)?

Hitinfrastructure.com, “Hospital Boards Lack Healthcare IT Expertise, Rely on Consultants”

HealthIt.gov, Hospitals Participating in the CMS EHR Incentive Programs

Intelligent Medical Objects, “What Does ‘Quantity Time’ With the EHR Mean for Doctors?” 

Leidos, “5 Important Skills for Recruiting Healthcare Consultants” 

Nordic, “How to Become an EHR Consultant” 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers