Tech innovations are changing careers in nearly every industry. The healthcare field is no different, as many hospitals, insurance companies, and related organizations scramble to hire tech talent like never before. When reports indicate that the healthcare system could save as much as $300 billion a year by better integrating big data, it’s no wonder that healthcare providers are rapidly embracing technology. With so much activity surrounding healthcare technology both in Richmond and across the country, the increasing focus on healthcare IT jobs is affecting tech careers everywhere for a number of reasons.
Technology is important to a number of different organizations, but for those in healthcare the stakes are as high as they can get. Safety is critical in a hospital, and when technology malfunctions, is left vulnerable, or is not maintained, the direct result can mean harm to patients. Surgeons rely on robots and lasers for procedures, MRI machines are powered by computer chips, sensitive medical records are housed in databases, and check-in procedures depend on properly functioning computers. Should any one of the many pieces of technology in a hospital malfunction for even a moment, it could be the difference between life and death. Healthcare settings have a responsibility for safety in their operations and are turning to tech pros like you for the solution.
Hospitals and healthcare providers are increasingly becoming targets for cyberattacks, in large part because of how lucrative medical records can be in the hands of a hacker. According to the FBI, medical identities are valued at 20 to 50 times more than financial identities on the black market. Likewise, ransomware attacks like the widespread WannaCry virus can be more effective against a hospital that may be open to paying a ransom just to quickly gain back usage of their critical systems.
However, no hospital wants to pay a ransom or be left scrambling after they’ve been attacked. The answer is proactivity, and that means securing cybersecurity talent. Primary care networks, medical specialists, and insurance companies are following suit and heavily recruiting the talent that can close any vulnerabilities. Luckily, many of the same precautions and safeguards against cyberattack also protect organizations from data loss due to natural disasters. With recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma impacting massive numbers of patients, the demand for those with tech skills is set to spike.
Outside of the doom and gloom on the scary side of healthcare IT jobs, hospitals, insurers, and doctor’s offices are adopting technology to make their operations more efficient. Telehealth, or technology that can virtually deliver medical services, is surging. At a time when many people are working remotely and can order groceries online, they expect to be able to consult a physician online too. Additionally, time spent in waiting rooms has been slashed, and online patient portal use is rising. One hospital even reduced their emergency room waiting time for low-acuity patients from two-and-a-half hours down to 35 minutes, all thanks to technology.
Outside of formal hospital visits or doctor consultations, tech is being used more and more to monitor and help patients at home. New tech-based prescription drug monitoring programs are being relied on to effectively identify and prevent the widespread problem of prescription drug misuse. As preventing disease is drastically cheaper than treating it, it’s easy to see why there’s such a heavy importance placed on healthcare IT jobs.
Artificial intelligence may be getting a lot of press in ushering in a new era of driverless cars, but its implications for healthcare IT jobs are just as profound. Spending on AI in healthcare is expected to increase tenfold to reach $6 billion by 2021. The technology has already been proven to accurately predict admission rates for hospitals, while IBM’s AI supercomputer Watson can diagnose lung cancer better than human doctors. And that’s just a start.
From a higher-level view, every single interaction or process in a healthcare setting creates pieces of data. Whether it’s checking in at the front desk, recording vital signs, or forming a diagnosis, mountains of information are being recorded. When used strategically with big data analysis instead of being left untouched on servers, healthcare providers can drastically improve and streamline procedures. For example, one health system recently saw a 40% reduction in readmissions all due to data-driven decision-making.
After all, the ability of doctors to quickly and accurately diagnose patients and take appropriate action is what saves lives every single day. If it takes hours instead of minutes to find out a patient’s allergy history or to determine the root cause of a condition, results can be disastrous. In fact, this newfound focus on data is expected to drive the electronic health record market to $5.2 billion within four years. By warehousing information appropriately in ways that can be easily accessed by non-IT staff such as doctors, healthcare IT jobs play a huge part in saving lives.
As the healthcare industry pours money and strategy into protecting and maintaining their operations, they are aggressively seeking those with the tech expertise that can help. Whether it’s in a hospital, insurance company, or newly built health system innovation center, IT skills like yours are needed in the healthcare industry. As you and your peers weigh such job offers, the tech skills shortage is amplifying and further changing the future opportunities available for your career.