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New frontiers in medicine

Emerging field Intersection of medical and digital care.

Emerging field Intersection of medical and digital care.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As healthcare providers move to digital platforms, more career opportunities come to the forefront.

The Indian healthcare industry is growing at a tremendous pace, thanks to initiatives being adopted to strengthen coverage, services, increasing healthcare expenditure by public as well as private players and the widespread adoption of technology. It is predicted that by 2020, the market will touch US$280 billion and its Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) counterpart will grow 1.5 times more than the current growth of nearly US$1 billion. The recent flagship government programme, Digital India, through its e-health initiative, is set to address information asymmetry and sub par access in remote areas through technology. The new National Health Policy 2017 advocates extensive deployment of digital tools for improving healthcare outcomes, by setting up a National Digital Health Authority (NDHA).

Improvements in public healthcare spending, increased focus on better financial management, growth in consumer health awareness, pursuit of quick response, quality care, and nearness of the healthcare unit, all in tandem with expansions in technology have resulted in taking healthcare out of the confines of the hospitals towards a paradigm shift, with the usage of digital technologies.

Newer technological advancements have resulted in explosive growth in 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 the HIT sector.

Students and professionals with a dual passion for IT and medicine, or 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 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. The job responsibilities include a plethora of tasks from optimising new systems to providing training, documentation, maintenance, trouble-shooting, requirement gathering, and design.

A career in HIT requires training in computer science, business management and domain knowledge — related to hospitals or public health. Anyone with an appropriate bachelor’s or master’s degree (BSc., BSc. Nursing, B. Pharm.), medical (M.B.B.S, B.D.S) or computer degree (B. Tech) are 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.

Skills required

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 customer service, meeting the needs of the internal department as well as those of clinical and business customers, and teamwork. Also, the ability to learn and adapt, as both healthcare and technology are dynamically changing fields. Specialised skill training in any one of the up and coming areas like big data analytics, system maintenance, user interface testing, cloud computing, mobile computing, social media marketing, mHealth, or telemedicine will further help to advance the career prospects.

There are numerous opportunities for career advancement, from technical to administrative roles. HIT specialists may find themselves in various roles. To name a few: healthcare IT executive, health informatics technician, chief medical information officer, healthcare business analyst, project manager/developer/trainer, EMR consultant/implementation manager, clinical information manager/associate, HIT research associates, and mHealth and telemedicine specialists.

Freshers may expect salary packages anywhere from three to eight lakhs per annum. Work experience equips professionals with more knowledge of HIT and makes them adaptable to shoulder advanced responsibilities culminating into quick career growth in terms of job and salary advancements.

Future ahead

Many healthcare service providers such as Max, Fortis, Medanta, AIIMS, and Shankara Netralaya have already implemented HIT at different stages, and many more are slowly joining. They are being supported by IT companies such as Deloitte, Cerner, Alscripts, Wipro, Napier, TCS, Reliance, and Akhil Systems through their products and services. In addition, public hospitals are gearing up for digitalisation. There will be no dearth of opportunities in this evergreen field in the coming years, as India moves towards digital and affordable healthcare.

The author is Associate Professor, IIHMR Delhi.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 4:42:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/new-frontiers-in-medicine/article18955097.ece

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