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Jobs Abundant in Health Information Technology

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Over the last few years we've heard about the looming shortage of nurses and doctors, but there's another growing need in the health care field---- one that medical institutions are nowhere close to filling. Ideastream's Michelle Kanu explains.

Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Thirteen years ago, Cleveland's Metro Health Medical Center put its toe in the water of computerized records to better track patient information. Fast forward to today and the hospital is virtually swimming in electronic record keeping.

That has created an opportunity. Chief Information Officer Jim Schlesinger says Metro is constantly looking for people who have enough basic medical knowledge and tech savvy to enter and manage all the data.

Schlesinger: "The positions are not easily filled. There's a lot of competition in the area. The other organizations in town are also expanding their use of the electronic medical records and so organizations are out there hiring and need staff."

Metro's competition includes the Cleveland Clinic, northeast Ohio's other major hospitals, insurance companies, and drug companies. Most are also knee deep in efforts to adopt computerized health records.

David Levin, Chief Medical Information Officer at the Clinic, says the computerized records give doctors new ways to find trends in the information they've gathered from treating patients with different illnesses.

Levin: "That's provided a whole bunch of new capabilities and opportunities, and it's also created new kinds of job opportunities as well for the folks that help us design, implement, support and ultimately improve these kinds of systems."

These are boom times for medical information technology, or informatics as some hospitals call it. By 2014, the federal government mandates that all U.S. citizens have an electronic health record. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs in this field will increase more than 20 percent by 2018.

Jeff Gruen is a partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers, a company that recently surveyed hundreds of health care organizations about their hiring needs.

Greun: "Probably the most acute need across the board-for providers, health plans, etcetera-is for the data analysts which doesn't necessarily have to have a high amount of clinical capability because they just need to get their hands on the information and be able to pull it out, so that's really the most critical need right now."

Ted Shortliffe is the former president and CEO of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Shortliffe: "There have been suggestions that we need as many as 50,000 people trained at this intersection over the next five years."

In 2009, the federal government provided stimulus money to some colleges to ramp up training for the field, but Shortliffe says they simply can't keep up.

Shortliffe: "The training programs around the country, even if they were all filled to the brim, would not be producing enough people in the health information technology and health informatics area to meet the current demand, and we know that will only get worse."

In northeast Ohio, Cuyahoga Community College is part of a consortium of two-year campuses across the Midwest using federal dollars to train future health IT workers.

Norma Morganti is the consortium's executive director. She feels the urgency to get people trained quickly.

Morganti: "Many times we have what we call positive attrition, where a student will leave our program because they got hired before they finished training. You know, it happens quite a bit, and you know that's a good thing."

For Mike Bankovich, getting retrained in health information technology was a natural fit after a career in IT and health care. At age 50, Bankovich was laid off from his job as a pharmaceutical rep and looked for a new position that would also leverage his background in IT.

Bankovich: "My former boss at the pharmaceutical company had read an article in one of the local papers and brought it to my attention, and kind of the light bulb went off and I started pursuing something in that field."

Bankovich researched training programs, found the one at Tri-C, and enrolled. He now works with Alliance Professional Services, a consulting company that helps physicians implement and use electronic health records.

But, unlike Bankovitch, you don’t need an IT background to work in the field. Health care professionals, business leaders, even manufacturers, have enrolled in training for this career.