Health informatics is a burgeoning field within the larger allied health industry
The health informatics career path is closely tied to the digital transformation happening within health care delivery, with more and more patients receiving care through telehealth and virtual medical services. To meet the growing demand, employers are looking to hire professionals who can manage their data operations and perform other crucial IT duties.
These jobs often require multidisciplinary talent, and while a graduate degree isn’t required for entry-level jobs, a master’s can help you build new skills and knowledge that can help you advance your career and earn a higher salary.
Why pursue the health informatics career path?
Technology is driving the health care evolution, and many health informatics jobs will be created in the coming years, providing you with diverse and numerous job opportunities.
Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 2.4 million new health care jobs between 2019 and 2029. Of that number, many will be in occupations within the health informatics field:
Jobs for medical records and health information technicians are projected to grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029
Jobs for medical and health service managers are projected to grow by 32% in the same time frame
Also, employment of software developers and application developers is forecast to grow by 22% in that time frame. This is important to note because there are many health informatics careers in software development. Hospitals, health insurers, and even community clinics are creating their own mobile apps.
Beyond employment opportunities, a career in health informatics can be rewarding in other ways.
Opportunity to improve delivery and quality of care
With a health informatics career, you’ll have the opportunity to blend multiple disciplines to ultimately improve the delivery and quality of care. This is a field that draws upon a variety of interests and abilities in medicine, technology, social sciences, and other fields.
According to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), health informatics “applies principles of computer and information science to the advancement of life sciences research, health professions education, public health, and patient care.”
With the work you do in health informatics, you might be able to help develop a screening tool for early detection of disease or otherwise assist hospitals and other providers in improving quality of care via data insights.
Working with cutting-edge tools
A health care informatics job will put you at the forefront of technology. New tools are constantly being introduced, and health care organizations have their eye on implementing emerging technologies after solidifying their adoption of data and analytics.
Physicians’ offices are common work settings for health informatics professionals, so learning what technologies physicians plan to use in the near future can indicate the tools you’ll likely use on the job. According to a 2020 survey from the American Medical Association (AMA):
63% of physicians planned to adopt augmented intelligence (e.g., artificial intelligence and machine learning) tools for health administration within the next three years
65% planned to adopt tools for precision and personalized medicine
43% planned to adopt blockchain technology
Multiple pathways for career specialization
Health informatics is a broad category. If you’re wondering how to become a health informatics specialist, you can consider any of the following paths:
Clinical data specialist
Health information manager
Clinical data systems analyst
Electronic medical records specialist
Informatics nurse (if you have nursing certification)
You can even opt to become a consultant and offer your services to a variety of clients. In such cases, you can join an existing consultancy or start your own business.
Industry trends in health informatics
According to Becker’s Hospital Review, there are a number of industry trends for health informatics professionals to be aware of. In considering how to become a health informatic specialist, knowledge of current trends is invaluable.
Evolving cybersecurity needs. Health informatics requires the cultivation of sensitive, private data, which creates a big target for hackers. Health informatics specialists must be prepared to work closely with IT to adapt robust data security measures.
A shift toward remote care. As Becker’s Hospital Review notes, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven advances in remote care for COVID-19 patients who don’t need to be hospitalized and for patients with other chronic conditions. There may be a lasting shift toward a hybrid care model, one that encompasses both remote and in-person care, both relying on health informatics.
Advancements in EHRs. Also note that electronic health records (EHRs) are changing at a rapid pace, evolving to be functional and flexible. For example, new EHRs can actually use voice assistants like Alexa to “listen” to doctor-patient conversations and assist in the note-taking process.
Here’s a quick look at trends in this industry according to Burning Glass Technologies:
The digital transformation of health care has occurred so quickly that many organizations have experienced difficulty recruiting top informatics talent. This can be seen in the time it takes to fill related positions:
35 days to hire a clinical data manager
35 days to hire an electronic medical records specialist
One factor potentially impacting that skills shortage is the desire among employers for hybrid skill sets. It's clear that health informatics professionals need a deep repertoire of technical skills, but increasingly they also need a complement of soft skills. In an informatics career, you'll be one link in the health care chain where you'll need to effectively and efficiently coordinate, collaborate, and communicate with providers, colleagues, and other stakeholders.
Areas of opportunity for careers in health informatics
Industries with the highest levels of employment for medical record and health information technicians in 2019 were:
General medical and surgical hospitals
Outpatient care centers
Management of companies and enterprises
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing care facilities)
The top industries for employment of health managers are similar to the above. However, the top-employing industries in 2019 for application software developers were:
Computer systems design and related services
Management of companies and enterprises
Data processing, hosting, and related services
Where are the health informatics jobs?
The digitization of health care has been widespread, with even rural providers adopting tools like telehealth and e-prescribing. Accordingly, health informatics jobs are available across the country. The top metropolitan areas for employment in 2019 were:
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim (California)
New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York, New Jersey)
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua (Massachusetts, New Hampshire)
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward (California)
Looking at concentration of employment can also be helpful for planning out your career. According to the BLS, the top metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of application developer jobs in 2019 were:
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (California)
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward (California)
Trenton (New Jersey)
Raleigh (North Carolina)
Durham-Chapel Hill (North Carolina)
The median health informatics salary was $67,534 according to April 2021 PayScale data, though salaries can vary depending on your role. The average annual health informatics salary in 2020 for someone with one to four years of experience was:
$54,000 for a clinical data specialist
$69,743 for a clinical data analyst
$68,506 for a data consultant
Advanced job options
The more experience you gain, the greater your earning potential will likely become. Health informatics specialists with five to nine years of experience earned a median of $75,094, while those with 10-19 years earned $85,814.
While a master's degree isn’t required for many entry-level positions, a graduate degree may be desired for advanced roles. At a minimum, the skills and knowledge you build could make you a better job candidate for opportunities like:
Clinical data manager ($98,610 median salary for 10-19 years of experience)
Health information management director ($79,271)
Clinical data manager ($98,610)
Geography also plays a part in the health informatics salary. According to PayScale, health informatics specialists in:
New York City earned 23% more than the national average
Nashville earned 16% more
Chicago earned 14% more
Atlanta earned 11% more
Little Rock earned 5% more
Based on median salary, the top-paying regions for medical records and health information technicians in 2019 were:
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (California): $144,530
New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York and New Jersey): $144,370
Janesville-Beloit (Wisconsin): $143,940
Binghamton (New York): $141,450
Top skills and digital tools for health informatics careers
If you have ambitions in the health informatics field, you’ll need a diverse skill set to compete for jobs, and ultimately succeed in your work. The fastest-growing skills requested by employers (as measured by projected growth in job postings requiring the skill) include the following:
Technology skills are crucial for anyone wondering how to become a health informatics specialist. The top technology skills for health informatics careers (as measured by percentage of job postings requiring the skill in 2019) include the following:
Relational database management systems (RDBMS): 36.4%
Microsoft Excel: 17.6%
Microsoft Office: 8.2%
TIBCO Spotfire: 8.2%
As mentioned previously, soft skills are increasingly in demand for highly technical positions. The top soft skills by level of demand in 2019 job postings were:
Joining a professional organization can help you advance your career, as well as grow personally and professionally. Gaining membership in an association will give you access to resources, continuing education, updates on industry trends, and peers. Networking with other professionals can be highly enriching for your career. Some of the most notable associations for health informatics professionals include the following:
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
American Medical Informatics Association
American Nursing Informatics Association (if you hold nursing certification)
International Medical Informatics Association
Start your career in health informatics
With a job in health informatics, you can position yourself to help make a positive impact on the delivery and quality of care. As more technology and innovation come to health care, providers and other companies will need skilled informatics personnel to spearhead their data initiatives and other analytics projects.
Such careers offer meaningful and rewarding opportunities for growth. With a master’s degree, you could bring new or refined skills and knowledge to the table and make a positive impact through your work. Seeking degree opportunities may be the first step in your health informatics career path.