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Report: Health Informatics Labor Market Lags Behind Demand For Workers

December 12, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The demand for health informatics workers is projected to grow at twice the rate of employment overall, but there is strong evidence that the nation already faces a shortage of qualified workers in this field, according to a new report from the Boston-based Burning Glass Technologies.

Health informatics jobs already remain open longer than the national average, a clear sign that employers struggle to fill these positions, according to an analysis of job postings nationwide included in the report. Once primarily clerical, health informatics roles now require a more diverse skill set to meet the demands of an evolving industry that has been reshaped by electronic record-keeping, a shifting regulatory environment that includes the conversion to ICD-10, and “big data,” the report concluded.

Key report findings include:

  • Emerging health informatics positions stay open twice as long as the ones they are replacing. Postings for medical records clerks, an older position, stay open for 18 days on average, compared to 38 days for its more highly skilled successor, clinical analysts.
  • Many of these new jobs are hybrids, requiring skill sets from different disciplines. Clinical analysts, for example, assist clinical staff with IT systems, interpret data, and manage patient records. That requires some of the skills both of a registered nurse and of an IT technician—at present, an uncommon combination. As a result, clinical analyst positions stay open 15 percent longer than the national average.
  • The talent pipeline for these workers seems to be leaking. According to federal statistics, there are 125,000 workers currently in these jobs. All of them could compete for the roughly 45,000 open postings for nonclinical coders tracked by Burning Glass, and another 34,000 graduates of medical coder training programs enter the field every year. But only 68 percent of graduates pass the required certification exams.

The report recommends that educators, training organizations, and workforce policymakers develop more opportunities for students and job seekers to cross-train between healthcare and IT specialties, to meet the demand for these hybrid positions.

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