Healthcare IT Career Tips

IT pros without clinical experience shouldn't rule out possible transitions into emerging healthcare IT jobs.
Small armies of health IT professionals will be needed to deploy, manage, and support new electronic medical record and other related clinical systems being installed in thousands of U.S. hospitals and doctor offices over the next five years.

The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services expects that the federal governments $20 billion-plus stimulus program to push health IT adoption between now and 2015 will create between 50,000 and 100,000 new jobs for health IT professionals.

That's great news if you're one of the relatively few IT pros in the U.S. that have specialized in health IT in recent years. You're bound to see job security -- and job offers -- boom.

But even if you're considering a career path into health IT--but have limited have previous experience working in clinical environments, don't despair. It might take some additional self-promotion, resume tweaking and additional training to land a healthcare IT job without industry experience, but it's not impossible.

There's a wide range of skills that employers will be seeking, said Gretchen Koch, director of workforce development programs at CompTIA, an IT industry trade association.

Of course, previous work in health IT is a big plus. So, play up any prior experience you have working in a clinical environment, where you've gained familiarity with healthcare workflow, processes, and the terminology, she says.

If you don't have experience working in clinical environments, a background in other industries that have similar needs or characteristics of healthcare is also helpful. That's especially true for IT professionals with experience in the financial services sector, where government regulations, security and real-time transactions are a focus. Those are familiar themes for healthcare IT, as well.

"Enterprise-wide hospital deployments not only need project management skills, but also security, networking, database management, business analysis, help desk, change management, skills," said Koch.

Because cloud-based deployments EMR systems, especially in doctor offices that don't want to host and support their own servers, are growing in popularity, "if you have cloud experience, put that at the top of your resume," in targeting employers -- including services firms -- looking to fill health IT-related jobs. "Those resumes will rise to the top," she said.

Who'll be hiring? It's not just hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. In addition to IT services firms, large hardware vendors, software providers - -especially EMR vendors -- will be among those looking to beef up their healthcare project teams, Koch said.

eClinicalWorks is among EMR vendors hiring new health IT talent as the company works with doctor groups across the U.S. who are deploying digitized medical records and practice management systems in their offices.

"We are hiring aggressively especially in the areas of training and support," said an eClinicalWorks spokeswoman. "We are currently at 850 employees, and as of March we planned to add another 500 jobs during the next two years. Some of that 500 has been hired, but since we are adding the positions over a span of two years, we still have a good portion of that left to fill."

If your current arsenal of skills isn't enough to get you noticed, consider taking classes that will lead to certifications in the health IT arena. New certificationsare expected to emerge, as employers and IT services providers figure out the desirable mix of IT and clinical skills needed for successful new deployments and ongoing operations of these systems.

"There will be new cross sections of disciplines between IT and health IT," said Koch. Community colleges will likely be a resource for new cross training programs.

In the meantime, HHS [the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services] is painfully aware that there won't be enough people to fill the need," said Koch, whose organization is among a few working with HHS to scope and develop new health IT professional training programs.

"HHS' goal is to get something up and running for 2010," she said.

Blue Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania, the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and a range of large and small healthcare providers are using mobile apps to improve care and help patients manage their health. Find out how. Download the report here (registration required).