Should I Become a Health Care IT Consultant?
Health care information technology (IT) consultants must be familiar with relevant patient safety and privacy practices, government regulations and industry standards. Health care IT is a broad field that includes the use of technology in maintaining patient records, privacy and security, health care financial systems, and the use of technology in medical practices. Duties may include analyzing and recommending practical methods for securely storing or sharing a host of electronic medical records, helping health care providers learn how to use new technologies, and maintaining accurate medical records.
The majority of computer and information systems managers, including healthcare IT consultants, work full-time, although overtime is not uncommon. Advances in technology allow many IT professionals to telecommute. Healthcare consultants most often have to travel to clients' locations in order to evaluate their hardware needs and provide training after upgrades. IT consultants spend a lot of time on computers.
PayScale.com reported a median annual salary of $71,887 for health care information technology consultants in 2016.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree required; master's degree preferred|
|Degree Field||Related field, such as information technology|
|Certification||Voluntary professional certification is available|
|Experience||Varies; at least 3-4 years of relevant experience|
|Key Skills||Analytical, leadership, organizational, communication and decision-making skills; familiarity with healthcare IT systems|
|Salary (2016)||$71,887 per year (Median)|
Sources: Online job postings from employers, American Health Information Management Association, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com
To become a health care information technology consultant you'll need a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as information technology. A master's degree is often preferred, though. Voluntary professional certification is available. The experience required varies, but is typically at least 3-4 years of relevant experience. You'll also need analytical, leadership, organizational, communication, and decision-making skills, along with familiarity with health care IT systems.
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Steps to Become a Health Care IT Consultant
Let's go over the steps you'll need to follow to become a health care information technology consultant.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Most employers prefer hiring candidates with at least a 4-year degree. Ideally, aspiring consultants should find a program that offers a solid background in both IT and health care, such as the Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management or Bachelor of Healthcare Administration. Common course topics in these programs include medical terminology, health care information systems, and medical ethics, as well as math and computers. Another option is to pursue a degree in computer or information science, supplemented by business, economics, accounting, marketing and statistics courses.
Complete post-baccalaureate training. Aspiring consultants who are changing careers and already have a degree can enroll in a post-baccalaureate certificate program in health information technology. These certificate programs are designed to give students a well-rounded background, including coursework such as health information management, health care IT concepts, medical terminology and project management, in addition to computer-specific classes such as security, technology or networking.
Step 2: Gain Entry-Level Experience
Entry-level jobs typically include substantial supervision. Employers typically look for professionals with related project management experience, which can include researching and analyzing relevant systems data. This information, along with workplace observations, is used to provide management with practical solutions to their information management issues. Rising to consultant status generally follows after completing several years of supervised experience.
Step 3: Pursue a Master's Degree
Consultants need to be able to market their skills as seasoned experts in the field. Additionally, since much of consulting work is analytical and investigative, employers prefer candidates who are disciplined self-starters and require minimal supervision.
Gaining an advanced degree can help give aspiring health care IT consultants a solid educational background while offering a chance for individuals to hone their skills. Programs like the Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) or Master of Science in Health Informatics usually take about two years to complete and can be obtained while working. Additionally, those who stay current with technological developments typically find the best advancement opportunities.
Consider becoming professionally certified. Health care IT professionals can choose from various certifications, including the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification issued by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Other options include the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) credential issued by Healthcare Information and Management Systems (HIMSS) or CompTIA's Healthcare IT Technician certification. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the organization issuing the certification.
Consider joining a professional organization. Although it's not a requirement to work as a health care IT consultant, joining a professional organization, such as the American Association of Healthcare Consultants (AAHC) or the National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants (NSCHBC), shows potential clients that the consultant meets proficiency, education and experience requirements. Other benefits may include referrals, discounted educational programs and other opportunities for professional development.
To become a health care information technology consultant you'll need at least a bachelor's degree and experience in the field.