8 IT Healthcare Trends for Tech Job Seekers in 2013

IT Healthcare is moving at a staggering pace. To help you stay ahead of the curve as the new year approaches, CIO.com spoke with CIOs and healthcare IT experts about trends to look out for in 2013.

Tue, November 13, 2012

CIO — For more than two years Healthcare IT (HIT) has followed on a steady growth track, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and that is likely to continue in the next few years, according to Bill Spooner, senior vice president and CIO at Sharp Healthcare. "HIT will continue to be a hot job market for the next two-three years," Spooner says.

The healthcare sector of IT walks a tightrope consisting of privacy, data security and the need to grow and update the infrastructure. HIT faces more challenges with HIPPA laws and privacy concerns then most other areas and with the convergence of mobile technologies, cloud computing, virtualization, clinical analytics and the upcoming IDC-10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems), HIT could be the most active area within the IT sector next year. To help you hone in on where the career opportunities lie, here are eight HIT trends for 2013.

1. Mobile Healthcare

The adoption of smartphones and tablets in HIT comes as no surprise. These devices are helping doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers get their jobs done on the move.

It's easy to see the promise that mobile technology holds for the future of healthcare, but the challenges lie in security and HIPPA privacy regulations. "This is a huge topic for any organization. Whether it is a mobile cart, a tablet or a smartphone, you need to give caregivers access at their fingertips. The [other] challenge in healthcare is that it's not a one-size-fits-all initiative. Beyond just finding a solution for all you then have to worry about security and application presentation to all of these types of devices," says Joseph Hobbs, CIO at Community Hospital at Anderson located in Anderson, Indiana.

CIOs are tasked with securing data, devices and managing who can access what, while facing penalties from HIPPA for mistakes. "Real-time alerting tools are being developed to signal changes in the patient's condition or environment and allow immediate intervention," says Spooner.

2. Cloud Computing and Virtualization

Not only are CIOs faced with growing and updating infrastructure, they also have to find a way to do it while saving money and resources. Virtualization is one of the ways IT professionals in HIT is trying to achieve this goal. It has been becoming more and more common and will likely continue, making IT workers with skills in cloud and virtualization in demand in 2013. "Most organizations have already been virtualizing servers and storage, a trend that will continue," says Spooner.

Cloud computing while being adopted on nonmission critical systems is still being held back due to HIPPA privacy and security concerns, but as the cloud industry matures and security catches up, companies will likely move more and more systems to the cloud, so they can focus on their core business objectives. "Cloud computing is accelerating at a somewhat slower pace, with organizations more frequently adopting private cloud technologies as vendor offerings mature, [and] prove their security models and become more cost-effective," says Spooner.

3. Big Data/Clinical Data Analytics

"Clinical analytics are a top priority for all providers, and big data is beginning to move from research to mainstream," says Spooner. Using clinical analytics, doctors can see what the most common ailment and conditions are; look at recovery rates for different procedures; and monitor vital signs of patients remotely, in real time.

It also provides a means for hospitals to use population data to identify patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure. These patients often require repeat visits and information provided by analytics could help better identify, train and educate these patients to better treat their disease or illness reducing costly ER visits and follow-ups.

"We are seeing HIT companies begin to apply advanced analytics tools to understand population health opportunities, increasingly important as the industry advances to collaborative, accountable care models," says Spooner. The challenge-and the opportunity for IT pros with analytics skills-- lies in finding efficient ways to store and maintain all this data while keeping it secure from prying eyes.

And, of course, there is the bottom line. Big data is giving providers a way to better examine where their resources are being spent. This, in turn, allows them to see how cost effective intricate and expensive procedures are. Then a hospital or a doctor can decide to invest more time and money in a specific area because it generates more revenue. Or, to the contrary, they could drop an area because it's not making money or is even losing money.

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