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7/25/2011
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Where The IT Jobs Are: Healthcare

Demand and pay for health IT talent surges, according to online career site Dice.com.

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Looking for a well-paying tech job? You may want to consider a health IT job, for which openings--along with pay--are soaring year over year, according to online career site, Dice.com, which specializes in engineering and technology postings.

While the number of open IT jobs posted on Dice.com overall has climbed 24% since last year, demand for health IT talent has shot up the most, said Alice Hill managing director of Dice.com.

"Health IT jobs are up 75% over last year," said Hill in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.

Although health IT jobs make up a relatively small segment of overall tech jobs posted on Dice.com, "nothing has been as large" as the surge in demand seen by Dice for health IT postings, she said. Approximately 3,000 health IT jobs are currently posted on Dice.com, she said.

It's not just the number of health IT job openings that are spiking, but pay for those positions is climbing too, she said.

Overall, "technology salaries have been flat for some time, even going down in some areas," she said. By contrast, average pay for health IT-related job postings in the medical and pharmaceutical segments has increased about 7% since 2009 to $85,244.

Health IT annual pay averaged in the mid to upper $70K range for many years till recently when it broke the $80K mark, she said.

Of health IT, the set of skills being most sought after are those related to e-health records or e-medical records, she said.

That's not surprising, considering the mad dash underway by thousands of hospitals and doctor offices nationwide to comply with federal government deadlines so that the healthcare providers can qualify for the more than $27 billion in incentive money allotted by the HITECH Act for the Meaningful Use of health IT, including EHR and EMR systems.

Also, among health IT job openings, positions that require skills in working with Cerner health IT platforms have jumped 80%, said Hill.

Overall within health IT, many employers are seeking professionals with previous experience working in enterprise environments, as well as strong analytical and problem solving skills, she said.

"These aren't entry level positions, but jobs demanding experienced people," she said.

Among employers looking to fill health IT jobs include Sharp Healthcare in San Diego, UnitedHealth in Minneapolis, and Baylor Health in Dallas, according to a Dice spokeswoman. Open positions at those organizations include health IT program and project mangers, and senior systems analyst.

The hunt for experienced health IT people could get tougher as Meaningful Use deadlines loom, and newly installed EHR, computerized physician order entry, and other clinical information systems require ongoing support and enhancements, Hill said.

"I don't think this is a bubble," she said.

In fact, the U.S. government has predicted a shortage of 50,000 health IT workers in coming years. The HITECH Act also allotted funding for workforce development and training, including programs involving community colleges across the country.

In addition, private organizations have been also stepping up with new programs to train an emerging health IT workforce. Recent offerings range from new certificate programs for health IT implementation and support technicians from professional organization CompTIA to online training EHR courses for techies and non-techies from private educational firm Alameda Services.

Meanwhile, historically, the ups and downs Dice.com has seen in demand of particular skill sets often have been a trailer for larger trends in the works, said Hill.

In the past "we saw mobile was getting hot" months before skills related to the technology were demanded by large numbers of employers across many industries, she said.

"By the time you put jobs up for posting, employers have to have a budget and plan in place" to utilize those demanded skills and technologies, she said.

Find out how health IT leaders are dealing with the industry's pain points, from allowing unfettered patient data access to sharing electronic records. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: There needs to be better e-communication between technologists and clinicians. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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