Product Management vs Project Management in Health Informatics
Learn about the distinct responsibilities of product and project management roles and how the different skillsets drive innovation and improvement in healthcare.
Product Management vs Project Management in Health Informatics Heading link
Effective management plays a pivotal role in ensuring successful outcomes. Two key roles that contribute significantly to these successful outcomes are project managers and product managers. Explore the distinct responsibilities of these roles and how they drive innovation and improvement in health informatics.
What is a product vs. a project?
Understanding the distinction between products and projects is fundamental in both project management and product management. While the terms are similar, they have different meanings and goals.
A health informatics project is an endeavor with a specific goal, scope, timeframe, and set of resources. Projects often have a defined start and end date, have specific deliverables, require cross-functional teams among various departments, and require various resources such as time, money, and personnel. Examples include:
- Implementing a new electronic health record (EHR) system
- Establishing a telehealth system
- Executing a population health management system
A health informatics product is a tangible or intangible item resulting from a development process that satisfies a need or demand of the end-users (health professions, consumers, and patients). Products may be the technologies to collect, access and retrieve information and/or information content within a given technology. Products may also be innovative technologies such as augmented and virtual reality which are used for interactive engagement. Products often have a life cycle team-based framework process used to develop and improve the functionality of technology to collect, access, and retrieve information. Examples include:
- Develop electronic health record (EHR), patient portals, and everyday technology software and/or improve the usability for specific stakeholders (professionals, consumers, and patients).
- Designing medical devices such as wellness health trackers, medication reminders, health diary applications, insulin pumps or pacemakers.
- Improvement to web browsers and search engines on multiple devices.
- Developing digital content websites and mobile health (mHealth) applications.
What does a project manager do?
Project managers are responsible for overseeing the planning, execution, and completion of projects within a specified timeframe and budget. The primary goal of a project manager’s role is to ensure that projects align with organizational objectives and meet the needs of stakeholders.
The key activities of a health informatics project manager include:
- Defining project scope, objectives, and deliverables.
- Developing project plans, schedules, and budgets.
- Managing resources and teams to complete tasks within the specified timeframe.
- Monitoring and controlling project progress to ensure adherence to goals.
In the healthcare industry, project managers help to contribute successful planning, execution, and completion of projects that enhance patient care, streamline operations, and drive innovation. They work to meet the needs of patients, healthcare providers, and administrators. Project managers commonly work in the following healthcare industries:
- Healthcare providers
- Health Information Technology (Health IT)
- Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology
- Health Insurance
- Public Health Agencies
Jill Marcotte has 30+ years of industry experience and works as a Clinical Assistant Professor in UIC’s online Master of Science in Health Informatics program. She also works in the industry as a PMO Manager for an ambulatory care vendor. Marcotte believes that project managers in the healthcare industry benefit from degrees like health informatics.
“In my current role, I conduct training within the ambulatory sector, and there are many benefits to having a healthcare background,” said Marcotte. “Knowledge in health informatics allows project managers to understand the health systems in use, identify deliverables, understand different technologies like cloud applications, and maintain a high-level technical understanding of the overall healthcare infrastructure. This expertise also allows for effective communication among stakeholders.”
What does a Health Informatics product manager do?
Health informatics product managers serve functions at multiple levels at various organizations. The roles and functions differ on the organization and background of the health informatics professional. HI product managers with traditional IT backgrounds serve as the back-end software developers, hardware developers, and user interface designers. HI product managers with a background from healthcare fields serve as advocates to improve the human-computer interaction by being advocates for end-users by improving existing technology and addressing end-user needs. They are the experts of the product development process to assist with development and train end-users, and may have employment opportunities in hospitals, health non-profit organizations, technology vendors, technology service providers, schools, and academics (community colleges/universities).
The key activities of a health informatics product manager include:
- Responsible for defining the overall strategy, vision, and roadmap of the product.
- Interviewing end-users using individual and focus group interviews to address end-user needs for usability and functionality to improve workflow.
- Advocate for developing and improving technology for individuals with disabilities (assistive technology) and older adults (gerontechnology).
- Serve as advocates at various organizations assisting with pilot testing of various technologies.
- Conducting product discovery by conducting market research to understand customer needs and competition.
- Collaborating with cross-functional teams consisting of the product manager, designer and architect to design, develop, and execute the product development launch with efficient use of resources.
In the healthcare industry, product managers focus on the development and improvement of healthcare products and services. Their roles span different sectors, focusing on creating and improving products that address the unique needs of consumers. Product managers commonly work in the following healthcare industries:
- Technical Educator
- Health Information Technology (Health IT)
- Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology
- Health and Wellness Technology
- Digital Health Startups
- Public Health Units, Health Non-profit, and Health Associations
Dr. Margaret Czart is a Clinical Assistant Professor in UIC’s online Master of Science in Health Informatics program with areas of interest in consumer health informatics, public health informatics, biomedical visualization, and disability informatics. Dr. Czart emphasizes the advantages of possessing knowledge in both product development and health informatics, highlighting that HI professionals are not limited to solely working with technology vendors.
“HI professionals can be collaborators at a health organization to work with vendors to improve technology,” said Margaret Czart. “They can advocate for the healthcare user to improve the usability of different technologies. They don’t have to work for a vendor technology.”
An education in health informatics project and product management
Individuals interested in learning more about health informatics and how to become a project or product manager should consider furthering their education. The online Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) program at UIC provides comprehensive coursework, including dedicated courses on project management and product management. These courses equip students with practical knowledge and insights into both roles, enriching their understanding and enabling them to apply this comprehensive knowledge to their Health Informatics (HI) expertise. Both courses are part of the online MSHI program’s Leadership in Health Informatics Concentration.
Healthcare project management course:
The BHIS 543: Healthcare Project Management course is required for the program’s leadership concentration. The course introduces students to a comprehensive understanding of specialized healthcare project management techniques and methodologies aimed at achieving positive outcomes within healthcare organizations. Students will delve into the intricacies of managing projects in the dynamic and complex healthcare environment, leveraging industry-standard methodologies to ensure successful project delivery.
Instructed by Marcotte, the course places a strong emphasis on hands-on applications, with students collaborating from the first week to conceptualize and implement a project.
“I tell my students that these teams closely mirror real-world scenarios,” said Marcotte. “They must navigate various deliverables, assess risks, and address regulatory considerations specific to healthcare projects. I’m always so happy when they do their presentations and nail it out of the park. It gives them the confidence to feel like they can manage a project of their own.”
Healthcare product management course:
The BHIS 537: Health Informatics Product Management course is elective for the program’s leadership concentration. Students will examine the environment and activities necessary to plan product development and management for the healthcare I.T. industry. They will study the different product management frameworks and how companies like Microsoft or Epic establish their vision and goals for new technology.
Taught by Dr. Czart, students will work on individual assignments that will build into a final project. Students will receive feedback from her and other students, and she emphasizes the importance of continuous discovery.
“BHIS 537 is a process course where students will learn the basics of how technology is designed and how it can be potentially improved,” said Czart. “The goal of the course is for students to build a product improvement plan that they can present as a sample of their work when applying for employment.”
Careers in Health Informatics
Individuals looking to pursue careers in project management or product management within the health informatics field have the opportunity to explore a diverse range of roles. Depending on your background and education, the average salary for product managers is $88,626 per year, and the average salary for project managers is $75,892 per year. Careers and average salaries* include:
Project Management careers in Healthcare:
- Health Informatics Program Lead: $82,000 per year
- Health Care Program Manager: $160,000 per year
- Health IT Project Manager: $121,000 per year
Product Management careers in Healthcare:
- Clinical Informatics Consultant: $85,000 per year
- Health Care Product Manager (may require certification): $114,000 per year
- Population Health Manager: $100,000 per year
- Technical Educator (may require license based on state): $71,000 per year
- Consumer Health Professional: $72,000 – $119,000 per year
*Salary data sources include Glassdoor, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter.