In the healthcare setting, it is no secret that pharmaceutical drugs, medical procedures and other elements of patient care are continually developing. And in recent decades, technology has more than kept pace with this rapid speed of advancements. Consider the storage of medical histories and other sensitive patient data. According to a survey published in American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy in July 2017, 99.1 percent of hospitals in the U.S. are using electronic health records (EHRs), a dramatic increase from 2003, when only about 31 percent were using these systems. And that is only one example.
As the rapid development of EHRs and other medical information technology illustrates, the technological side of healthcare is changing at a steady clip, which means that organizations in the field must stay on their toes to ensure that they provide the most effective – and up-to-date – care for their patients. However, sometimes this is easier said than done. For many healthcare groups, continually updating tech solutions and training staff to use them is a struggle, which additionally can make it difficult to remain compliant with changing requirements at federal, state and local levels.
To keep pace with health IT advancements – and ensure that regulatory measures are met – many organizations turn to health informatics consultants to help simplify the process.
What is a health informatics consultant?
Consultants work in a variety of industries, from communications to finance. At the most basic level, these professionals are responsible for helping individuals, departments or entire companies to improve a particular aspect of their business. That may mean training staff to use a particular technology or analyzing current business practices to determine areas that could be made more efficient. Companies typically hire consultants to meet short-term needs or fix specific problems, challenges that do not require hiring a new full-time, salaried professional.
Healthcare organizations can benefit from a number of types of consultancy work, including consultants who specialize in the area of health informatics.
Typical responsibilities of health informatics consultants include the following:
● Ensuring that organizations comply with federal regulations.
● Supporting internal staff and training them on new procedures or technologies as needed.
● Anticipating future trends in health informatics, including technology requirements.
● Communicating new information to multiple levels of an organization, including those outside of the IT department, such as doctors and nurses.
Due to the fact that these professionals are typically hired to fill specific needs, the exact responsibilities will depend on the role that the organization needs them to play during their time with the group.
Health Informatics (HI)I consultants are sometimes also brought in to help fill informatics needs while organizations are considering increasing the staffing of their health informatics department – or even determining whether they need to create a department in the first place.
The benefits of a consulting career
A career as a health informatics consultant offers a number of benefits to qualified professionals who are interested working in HI but want a role outside more traditional positions within healthcare organizations.
Many enjoy the fast paced nature and ever-changing responsibilities of these roles. Rather than working in the same hospital or office every day, you will likely work with a number of clients at a variety of locations throughout the year, finding solutions to different challenges. If you are the kind of person who prefers to avoid the monotony of a daily routine, the varied nature of consultancy work may provide a welcome relief from the more traditional 9 to 5 route.
Some roles also involve opportunities for travel, which is a major perk for adventurous informatics professionals who want to explore more of the U.S. However, this aspect of the career is entirely dependent on the position If you are looking for a job that provides the chance to experience new workplaces and meet new people, either in your own community or in areas across the country, a consulting career may be a good choice.
Another benefit of health informatics consulting is that you can go into business for yourself, either by starting your own firm or working as a freelance consultant. These options can give you greater control over your hours and workload, an advantage that many find helpful in establishing work-life balance.
In addition to the flexibility offered by these roles, consultants in this facet of healthcare are well-compensated financially, generally earning higher hourly wages than salaried employees who work for the department full-time. According to the job and salary website Glassdoor, the average national salary for a health informatics consultant is $83,899, with some salaries even reaching into six figures.
Beginning your career as an HI consultant
Establishing a career as an HI consultant typically requires a resume that demonstrates considerable academic and professional experience in the field. After all, if a company is going to trust you to improve its informatics department, it will be expected that you will be well-versed in the challenges and developments of the field.
Qualifications typically vary by position, but generally include:
Informatics degree: A bachelor’s degree in informatics is almost always required to work in consulting, but a higher level of education, such as a master’s in health informatics, is often preferred. Earning a graduate-level degree can set you apart from the competition when applying for roles and help advance your career.
Workplace experience: Having at least several years of workplace experience will help you in your pursuit of a consulting career. Specifically, you should aim to develop expertise working with IT platforms, cloud solutions, government reimburse systems and coding frameworks, and gain familiarity with healthcare terminology and practices.
Soft skills: In addition to your professional and academic qualifications, you should work to develop soft skills, such as analytical and critical thinking, project management and public speaking, as well as those that are beneficial to teaching, such as communication and leadership.
Keep in mind that much of consulting focuses on problem-solving, so come prepared with specific examples when you interview for a new position. Look for opportunities to create solutions for challenges in your current workplace to refine this ability.
Ready to take the next step in pursuing a career as a health informatics consultant? Consider enrolling in the online Master of Science in Health Informatics degree or Post-Master’s Certificate in Health Informatics with the University of Illinois at Chicago. Advancing your academic qualifications can help you to become a more competitive candidate on the path toward a rewarding career helping healthcare organizations improve the services and care they provide to patients. Contact admissions today to learn more about applying to the UIC health informatics programs.