June 12, 2015 by Emsi Burning Glass
Health care reform depends on the better management of medical information—“health informatics”—yet the labor market is not keeping up with the demand for workers with these healthcare informatics skills.
The demand for health informatics workers is projected to grow at twice the rate of employment overall, but there is strong evidence that the nation already faces a shortage of qualified workers in this field. Health informatics technology jobs already remain open longer than the national average, a clear sign that employers struggle to fill these positions, according to an analysis of job postings nationwide in Emsi Burning Glass’ 2014 report.
Healthcare informatics includes positions involved with the collection, handling, and processing of health care information for a variety of purposes, from billing to medical quality assurance. Accurate coding of patient records is fundamental to the entire health care system, both to providing treatment and ensuring providers get paid by insurance companies. Making better use of medical information has huge potential for lowering costs and improving quality, and is one of the few areas in health care where providers, insurers, and policymakers of both parties agree.
The analysis of patient data and medical information (derived from advances in health technology) needs to be handled with care by skilled professionals. Without appropriate care, false safety signals and assurances can become a real risks to both patients and medical professionals.
The field is being transformed by the shift to a new, international-standard coding system called ICD-10, set to be complete in October 2015. The conversion will increase the number of codes from roughly 18,000 under the old system to more than 150,000. In, addition, “big data,” electronic record-keeping, and a shifting regulatory environment have reshaped the field, and now these positions often involve sophisticated, judgment-based work. This has resulted in a more diverse set of healthcare informatics roles, just as demand has exploded.
The report recommends that educators, training organizations, and workforce policymakers develop more opportunities for students and job seekers to cross-train between health care and IT specialties, to meet the demand for these hybrid positions.