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What you need to know about a career as a health care IT project manager
Are you an IT professional looking to move into a management position? Maybe you’re considering an industry change or are already working on the technical side of health care and want to advance. Professionally combining information technology with the health industry, health care IT project managers plan, initiate and manage IT projects by leading and guiding the work of technical staff. Not only are you involved in each stage of IT projects and system activities, but you’re also responsible for turning the data it into actionable results.
This role requires a mix of experience, technical and health care knowledge, management skills and education. As a health care IT project manager, you do much more than manage. You monitor projects, develop strategies for workflows, coordinate the creation of your team and stay up-to-date with the ever-evolving world of health care information technology. You effectively help determine your organization’s health care IT goals and are responsible for implementing computer systems that meet these goals.
With so much involved in this position, hiring managers often look for individuals with adequate work experience, typically five or more years, according to Payscale. The right educational background is also important, as most employers require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, health informatics or a related field. In addition to undergraduate education, candidates may want a relevant advanced degree to help them stand out for a management-level.
One potential degree to pursue is an online Master of Advanced Study in Health Informatics. A program like this can give professionals both in and outside of health care an opportunity to enhance skills related to this rapidly expanding field. Graduates can be prepared for careers in a wide range of health care settings through courses in information technology, computer science and knowledge management.
A typical day in the life of a health care IT project manager
Because of the responsibilities associated with this position, it’s important that health care IT project managers stay up-to-date on new technology, making sure to note ways it can be used to update current systems in their organizations. This knowledge can help in every facet of the role, starting with a manager’s assessment of the cost and benefit of new projects before they launch.
This is evident in the current push in the industry to convert to electronic health records. While major facilities may be fully converted, many smaller organizations are still phasing out paper from their businesses. Many health care IT project managers are currently overseeing this transition, and they need to make sure that the switch is seamless.
Once projects begin, like an EHR conversion, it’s the IT project manager who plans, coordinates and directs all computer-related activities in an organization. They develop and continuously update plans in relation to project objectives, technologies, systems, information specifications and even schedules, funding and staff.
Throughout a typical day, health care IT project managers monitor progress to keep all aspects of their projects on track, assessing the business implications based on the results at each stage. Additionally, they are responsible for sharing milestones and deliverables with management and key stakeholders.
Daily tasks may include work in any stage of a project, such as:
- Managing project execution
- Ensuring health care IT system compliance
- Consulting with project personnel and coordinating their activities
- Preparing project status reports
- Approving modifications to project plans
- Performing risk assessments
- Evaluating current or future customer needs and priorities
A closer look at the professional landscape of health care IT project management
While the median pay for IT project managers is close to $136,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, previous work experience can also be important to hiring managers. Five years or more of relevant work experience may greatly impact the viability of your application at this level, especially if that experience is in an IT field.
Projected job growth for IT project managers from 2016 to 2026 is 12%, which is above the national average for all occupations, according to the BLS. Demand is on the rise to accommodate the increasing shift in businesses toward using digital platforms to conduct operations.
Job growth in this area offers potential for multiple career paths. Advancing to a senior-level position is just one possible career path for a health care IT project manager, according to Payscale. Individuals may even continue on to become IT directors, chief information officers or vice presidents in IT.
Becoming a health care IT project manager
To be considered for opportunities in health care IT project management, it’s important to have the right combination of technological experience, knowledge and education. You should have a varied background working with software that focuses on data mining, analytics and management as well as an understanding of mathematics, communication and health care trends. Other helpful professional skills include:
- Business and leadership skills help develop and implement strategic plans to lead and motivate a team to work efficiently and effectively.
- Analytical skills not only help to identify problems, but also help determine the best ways to solve them.
- Communication skills are essential to explain the work to those who might not be technically minded.
- Decision-making skills help to optimally plan and allocate resources to achieve business goals.
- Legal and compliance skills and knowledge are also beneficial as health care regulations heavily influence the daily lives of project managers, and all electronic data must meet compliance standards.
Health care IT project managers typically must have a bachelor’s degree, but many individuals in this role have graduate degrees, such as their MAS in Health Informatics. Hiring organizations may require a graduate degree, especially for higher-level positions, as well as several years of experience in a related IT job.
Learn more about your potential career as a health care IT project manager
Combine your experience in IT with the growing and changing health care industry by considering career opportunities in health informatics. You can prepare for these opportunities by pursuing the right education, such as the online Master of Advanced Study in Health Informatics at Arizona State University, and learn about the effective use of information technology, data science and knowledge representation to impact health care.