By: U.S. News University Connection
Just 2.2% of hospitals had operational electronic health record systems (EHR) in place in the third quarter of 2013, according to the Healthcare Informational and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
That number is somewhat surprising, considering that President Barack Obama signed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act in 2009 to incentivize doctors and hospitals to switch to paperless electronic health records (EHR).
HIMSS has developed an eight-step process for implementing EHR and, aside from the aforementioned 2.2%, just 31% of hospitals are in the final two stages. Meantime, 50.7% are still attempting to complete the first four steps, even though free and open source software options such as myEMR360 exists to assist with EHT implementation.
Considering that penalties — such as lower payments from the Medicaid and Medicare health insurance programs — go into effect in 2015 for organizations without fully operational EHR systems, hospitals have plenty of incentive to get moving.
Those penalties increase annually, too. They start at 1% in 2015 and may increase to as much as 5%.
"It’s pushing people to do something," HIMSS Executive Vice President John Hoyt told Forbes. "We know the growth rate is better than before."
And that’s why stepping into a role in healthcare administration could be a monumental challenge without EHR knowledge and the necessary education credentials, such as a master’s degree in health management and policy or healthcare administration.
That’s where health informatics enters the picture.
Simply, health informatics involves overseeing a system that gathers health information from patients, organizes that information and disseminates it to the proper medical personnel and patients. The idea is that having a central repository of the information will help medical professionals provide better care.
In theory, costs will be better managed through the reduction of unneeded medical expenses — redundancies are common in today’s medical world — and by improving patient care and ultimate results.
As might be expected, the number of health informatics jobs is expected to climb quickly, as hospitals and other healthcare providers need help in implementing EHR. Between 2010 and 2020, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 22% growth for health and biomedical jobs.
But to get a health informatics job, a master’s degree in health management and policy is in order.
A typical program will teach students how to manage patient medical data, test financial models and analyze policy. Those who graduate should be able to lead an EHR major electronic health records department.
Among other skills, students will learn to gather, organize and interpret healthcare information; oversee the management of information using relational database systems; manage the use of medical records to provide the best patient care; learn the limits and opportunities of information technology in the medical field; and learn the details of medical language and the classification systems used in the healthcare field.
After completing this program, the following jobs may well be within reach: chief information officer, chief medical information office, HIM director, clinical data analyst, health data/information resource manager, health information system application designer, compliance officer and IT consultant.
And that may be the tip of the iceberg. With additional future regulations likely, that should prompt an ongoing need for those with health informatics skills.