As electronic health records become commonplace in health care nationwide, the number of U.S. workers involved in information technology at hospitals and clinics has grown to more than 161,000 people, according to a study published in the journal JAMIA Open.
That same workforce is also expected to grow between 19,000 to 153,000 more people as hospitals and clinics further adopt electronic health records, also known as EHRs, into their operations, concluded William R. Hersh, M.D., F.A.C.M.I., F.A.C.P., and his colleagues at OHSU.
“There were very few hospitals using EHRs 10 years go,” said Hersh, professor chair of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Now, more than 96 percent of hospitals use EHRs. Increased use also led to a growth in the health care IT workforce, which should continue to expand. There are many career opportunities at the intersection of health care and IT.”
The recent paper provides an update to a previous study, which found there were about 108,000 U.S. health care IT workers in 2007. The estimates do not include workers in non-EHR health IT fields such as the maintenance and oversight of patient-facing apps, data analytic platforms and telemedicine technologies.
The studies were needed because the general field of biomedical and health informatics isn’t tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics. Hersh and colleagues developed their estimates by analyzing a database from HIMSS Analytics, which is associated with the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society.
University officials and policymakers can use the estimates to inform their decisions about workforce training programs, said Hersh, who also directs the OHSU Biomedical Informatics Graduate Program.
Electronic health records are the digital collection of health and medical information. They’re designed to improve health care by providing both physicians and patients all of a patient’s health records over time in one place.