Over the past few years, the healthcare industry has been undergoing an information technology upgrade, and the types of computer science jobs in health informatics have exploded. Health informatics specialists focus on analyzing the vast amount of data that healthcare providers have concerning patients, healthcare administration, medication, insurance, hospitals and clinics, which until now hasn’t been systematically analyzed. All health informatics careers require computer science skills, knowledge of healthcare and, specifically, how to analyze healthcare industry data.
Several related occupations deal with similar issues in healthcare, including the installation of IT systems, efficiently using technology in healthcare and applying computer science techniques to medicine and medical treatments. Health informatics doesn’t deal with these issues, instead focusing solely on analyzing patient and administrative data to find the best ways to manage healthcare and eliminate the tens of thousands of costly human errors that harm patients and jeopardize hospitals each year.
How to Start a Career in Health Informatics
Health informatics specialists have a special mixture of computer science, IT and healthcare skills. This field requires at least a bachelor’s degree in a closely related subject, and usually a degree in health informatics is preferred. Job seekers with master’s degrees have better opportunities, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science or an IT field isn’t necessary to enroll in a health informatics master’s program. However, the pace of these programs may be overwhelming for students without the prerequisite IT and programming skills. Health informatics professionals must know computer programming – usually C/C++ or Java – and advanced computer science techniques such as data mining.
In addition to two-year master’s degrees, many colleges offer one-year certificate programs that provide students with the programming and data analysis skills needed to develop applications such as electronic health records (EHR), according to the US News and World Report. These programs collate patient data and make it electronically accessible online or from hospital computer systems. People with advanced degrees in this field put their expertise to use by applying advanced data mining and computer science theory to healthcare data to help prevent the 44,000 to 98,000 deaths caused by administrative inefficiency each year.
Health Informatics Job Prospects and Salary
Since this field is very new and just beginning to take off, salary data isn’t widely available, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that database administrators earn a median annual salary of $77,080, computer systems analysts, $79,680, and software developers, $93,350. Since health informatics jobs range from database administration to software development, salary depends on position and education, and job outlook for all health informatics jobs is excellent. Since 2012, 70 health informatics master’s programs have been created in the United States, and internships are available with healthcare companies such as BlueCross BlueShield and Lockheed Martin.
Similar occupations, such as health IT and bioinformatics, are experiencing similar explosions in demand, and these careers deal with issues that overlap with health informatics. Health IT specialists find the best ways to install healthcare IT systems, while bioinformatics specialists analyze medical and DNA data to make treatments more effective.
Related Resource: Bioinformatics Jobs
For college students interested in healthcare, computer science and data analysis, health informatics provides an excellent alternative to a medical, or academic career, and a quicker path to employment. If sifting through data to find new ways to save lives sounds interesting to you, keep researching the types of computer science jobs in health informatics.