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Breaking into the Healthcare IT job market

Posted Nov 20 2009 10:02pm

One of the most popular questions that I am routinely asked about is how to get a job in the (now hot again) healthcare IT market. I was doing a little poking around on JuJu.com, a job search engine, and the nice folks there gave me some interesting statistics based on their usage patterns:

  • IT positions make up approximately 3.5-7.0% of all healthcare jobs and this number is on the rise.
  • Although the percentage of healthcare IT remains small relative to the healthcare field in general, there appears to be growing demand and consistent demand for this skill set as the field develops
  • JuJu.com estimates that the number healthcare IT jobs has risen by about 10-15% since 2008, based on data, information, and postings on their site

The demand of course is organic and the need for better technology and information management in the healthcare market is fairly evident. If you’re not an expert in healthcare IT, how could enter the field? It’s actually a little easier than you might think but you’ll need to be creative. Here are some ideas.

  • If you’ve got experience running or working in a medical office or you’re an experienced project manager you can apply for an implementation specialist or assistant at almost any healthcare IT firm like an EMR or EHR vendor, consulting firm, or systems integrator. The thing to keep in mind is that every customer that buys an EMR needs to have it installed and deployed and that’s done by implementation folks. There is a shortage of people that can take complex products like EHRs and EMRs live.
  • If you have a little or a lot of general IT experience but no healthcare IT experience you can start by working in a technical support or training capacity. You would get the opportunity to learn new products and use your IT experience to provide customer service, support, and training talent.
  • If you’re interested in the software side you can think of being a tester of software; vendors need good quality assurance and configuration management personnel and that’s a great place to begin your healthcare IT career.
  • If you’re good at writing, consider joining the documentation team for creating training materials, videos, screencasts, or other related artifacts necessary to teach people how to use healthcare IT.
  • If you’re a developer interested in writing software but you’re not experienced in healthcare, join one of the many open source projects that are out there building open source EMRs, EHRs, PHRs, and related tools. Open source is a great way to join a community of people willing to help you if you’re willing to give back to them, too.
  • If you’re an integration specialist (you know EAI, EDI, EII, ETL, ESBs, or other integration techniques) start to learn HL7, CCR, and CCD and you can write your own ticket almost anywhere. The majority of healthcare problems in the IT arena are integration and deployment problems so if you know scripting and HL7 you’re good to go.

What if you can’t find a job because you don’t have enough experience and no one will hire you due to lack of experience? Well, then find one or more open source projects where you can help with documentation, training materials preparation, quality assurance, software code, design, configuration management, or a host of other tasks. By working on an open source project you will get the experience you need without having to be hired by someone. Then, you can use that on your resume to show that you’ve got capabilities because projective employers can actually download and see what you’ve done.

If you have other ideas for folks on how to break into the HIT job market, leave some comments here.

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