The health care industry is rapidly evolving in the twenty-first century. With the continuing shift towards electronic health records and other health information technologies, jobs in health informatics are growing at a much higher than average rate—32% versus 4% according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Industry advances in health IT and emerging digital health technologies are forcing health care organizations to keep up. Due to this growing need, the demand for health informatics consultants is increasing.
In lieu of hiring full-time employees to help manage and maintain systems and train employees on new technologies and procedures, many organizations hire consulting positions to meet their short-term needs. Though there are many health care facilities who do prefer to hire an in-house consultant, the majority of these health informatics positions are contracted per project.
Health informatics consultants are support professionals responsible for the systems and databases that health care organizations and facilities use to maintain patient records.
Health Informatics Consultants:
- Implement, maintain and update systems and networks
- Ensure that federal regulations are being met and upheld
- Train staff on new technologies and procedures
- Work closely with the organization’s IT staff, occasionally interacting directly with health care professionals
While a bachelor’s degree in health informatics or a similar field is still acceptable, a higher level of education—a master’s degree in health informatics, for instance—is often preferred. A graduate-level degree can help set consultants apart and convey their expertise in the industry.
Consultants provide expert advice in a professional setting. They should possess exceptional leadership skills. Clients may be resistant to changes in their day-to-day operations, so a consultant must be able to successfully gain a client’s trust and flexibility.
In addition to their expertise and leadership skills, consultants should be able to:
Effectively communicate with people in a variety of roles
A consultant will be expected to work with many employees within a single organization. These employees may possess little to no knowledge on the subject or may be well versed. Consultants will need to adjust their language to speak to everyone and anyone.
Develop and maintain relationships with clients
The contract may only be short-term, but consultants will need to build long-term relationships with clients. Listening to the client’s needs, delivering results and communicating are all part of relationship building.
Manage projects effectively and efficiently
Consultants are the experts. They will need to plan the project and establish a timeline for completion in addition to executing each phase of the project. A consultant will need to own the project from start to finish.
For a health informatics consultant, expertise in health informatics and health technologies is a necessity. Clinical knowledge and knowledge of the programs and processes is also required. Those looking to work as a consultant, will need at least two years of experience working in the industry before transitioning to this position.
Due to the nature of this role, health informatics consultants should expect to travel often. Consultants can take on projects of any length in any location as long as it falls within their purview. While they may be able to complete some aspects of their project remotely, there will likely be a need to travel to the site for some period of time.
Health informatics consultants should expect to be well compensated. While overall salary will depend on education, expertise and project lengths, successful health informatics consultants can realize an average salary of $103,399 per year according to ZipRecruiter.
In order to be successful as a health informatics consultant, a strong education and extensive on-the-job experience is required before transitioning to a consultant position. Once that expertise is established, health informatics consultants have a myriad of opportunities they can pursue. They may choose to work for a health informatics consulting firm, a health software or health IT company, as a full-time employee for a hospital or health care facility or go into business themselves.
They may take on short-term or long-term projects for health care facilities such as:
- Hospitals (state or private)
- Community health clinics
- Ambulatory care clinics
- Long-term care facilities
- Hospice care facilities
- Large medical practices
- Government health facilities
Becoming a consultant allows for a certain amount of freedom. Consultants can often choose where they want to work and what projects they take on. They are able to set their schedules and sometimes telecommute. Career growth for a health informatics consultant depends greatly on their project success and expertise.
At the minimum, a health informatics consultant must obtain a bachelor’s degree in health informatics (or a related field) and have a few years of professional experience. Successful health informatics consultants will typically follow this path:
A consultant is considered an expert in their field. Expertise cannot be gained from education alone. Professional experience in a related role is an absolute necessity for anyone looking to become a consultant.
Those interested in transitioning from a full-time position to a consulting position in health informatics should look for jobs that provide the training and experience they would need and use once they become a health informatics consultant. You should expect to work for at least two years before transitioning to a consultant role.
While a bachelor’s degree is still sufficient for many consultants, a master’s degree is quickly becoming the standard. A Master of Science in Health Informatics, like the one offered by the University of Pittsburgh, can help you become a competitive candidate for consulting projects.
If you are interested in pursuing a career as a health informatics consultant, you should consider earning your Master of Science in Health Informatics through the University of Pittsburgh.