Monday 21 August 2017 News Updated at 08:08 AM IST
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Healthcare IT as a top of the line job - Deccan Herald
Healthcare IT as a top of the line job
Dr Anandhi Ramachandran,
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 The most recent flagship government initiative, Digital India, through its e-health initiative, is set to address information asymmetry and below par access at remote areas through technology and portals. File photo
The Indian Healthcare industry is growing at a tremendous rate owing to the initiatives being adopted for strengthening coverage and services and increasing healthcare expenditure by public as well as private players in addition to the widespread adoption of technology. It is predicted that by 2020, the market will touch $280 billion and its Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) counterpart will grow 1.5 times more than the current growth of nearly $1 billion.

The most recent flagship government initiative, Digital India, through its e-health initiative, is set to address information asymmetry and below par access at remote areas through technology and portals. The new National Health Policy 2017 advocates extensive deployment of digital tools for improving the efficiency and healthcare outcomes through the establishment of National Digital Health Authority (NDHA).

The improvements in public healthcare spending, increased focus of the providers on better financial management, growth in consumer health awareness, their pursuance for quick response, quality care, nearness of the healthcare unit all in tandem with expansions in technology have resulted in taking the healthcare out of the confines of the hospitals towards a paradigm shift in usage of digital technologies. Some of the newer technological advancements are:

n Electronic health record
n Portal technology (Collaborative data exchange online)
n Sensors and wearable technology
n Telemedicine, telehealth
n Mobile devices (mobility), Remote,
real-time locating tools
n Cloud computing
n Wireless communication

All these have resulted in an explosive growth in areas like public-private partnerships, consultancies, development of novel medical devices, analytical tools, medical tourism, and also triggered a concomitant opening of doors to fast growing job opportunities in HIT sector.

Work environment
A career in HIT enables remarkable opportunities to bring in value, quality, reliability, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and better healthcare outcomes. Students and professionals with a dual passion for IT and medical, allied health sciences have a great career possibility in this field. The timing for such a career choice could not be better: healthcare providers now confront a huge procedural shift from traditional methods of service provision, to interaction with digital records, online monitoring, workflow automation, telemedicine and mobile based practices.

This has ensured an increased dependency on HIT specialists within all types of medical and non-medical settings in all geographical areas of the country catering directly or indirectly to healthcare sector - private practices, hospitals, nursing homes, laboratories, public health agencies, insurance providers, consultancies, and software companies.

The working environment confronting a HIT professional is defined by the level to which the employer has adopted the technology. The job responsibilities include a plethora of tasks from optimising the new systems to providing training, documentation, maintenance, trouble shooting to requirement gathering, designing for a new system as well.

A career in healthcare information technology requires training in computer science, business management and domain knowledge related to hospital or public health. Anyone with an appropriate Bachelor’s or Master’s degree (BSc, BSc Nursing, BPharm etc) or with medical (MBBS, BDS) or computer degree (BTech) is eligible to enter the field.

They need to follow it up with special courses in HIT like the one offered by International Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR), Delhi. IIHMR offers an AICTE and NBA accredited two-year programme with specialisation in HIT that trains the budding professional in requisite HIT skills.

Requisite skills
In addition to good computer application and process understanding, a successful HIT specialist should possess the following skills: knowledge of healthcare delivery workflow, problem-solving and critical thinking, market research capabilities, strong verbal and written communication, attention to detail and to customer service, meeting the needs of the internal department as well as those of clinical and business customers, team work, ability to quickly learn and adapt, as both healthcare and technology are dynamically changing fields.

Specialised skill training in any one of the upcoming areas like big data analytics, system maintenance, user interface testing, cloud computing, mobile computing, social media marketing, mHealth, Telemedicine etc will further help advance the career prospects. There are numerous opportunities for career advancement from technical to administrative roles. The HIT specialists may find themselves in various roles.

Many healthcare service providers have already implemented HIT at different stages and many more are slowly joining the bandwagon. They are being supported by IT companies too. In addition, public hospitals are also gearing towards digitalisation to meet greater efficiency. There will be no dearth of opportunities in this evergreen field in the upcoming years as India moves towards digital and affordable healthcare.

(The author is associate professor, IIHMR Delhi)