Career Services Post: Weighing short-term loss against long-term gain

By Greg Reid, contributing writer

Where there’s risk, there’s reward. The key, of course, is to calibrate the risk in such a way that you maximize your reward. In terms of a career in health information technology, one option is to risk taking a step backwards – in salary, or title, or position on a team – to achieve longer-range career goals.

 “We’ve all probably at some point taken a step back in our career to get in the door of an organization that holds a great deal of potential,” said Emilie Sundie, director of health IT services at Health Service Advisory Group (HSAG) in Phoenix, the primary technical assistance provider for the Arizona Regional Extension Center and serves more than 1,500 providers. “I’ve come across a number of people contemplating doing that, which is completely different from having done it.”

At HIMSS14, Sundie and Janet Mar DNP, FNP-BC, a health informatics specialist with HSAG, discussed entrepreneurial opportunities in “Finding your HIT Niche in Primary Care.”

The talk focused on the roles skilled IT professionals are playing in the growing demand to connect primary-care providers with local healthcare networks, payer organizations and state health information exchanges. Areas of need include infrastructure, networking, device management, database management, usability and workflow, reporting and analysis, privacy and security and informatics.

“Most providers can’t afford to have someone on board all the time,” Sundie said. “It’s the perfect spot for an entrepreneur to become part of an organization, providing services and knowledge the same way others are acknowledged by that organization.”

Six months later, Sundie stands by the advice she shared in Orlando. Opportunities have grown with the passage of time, and as providers and others struggle to keep up with regulatory demands, such as compliance with Stage 2 of Meaningful Use.

And, she gently reminds us that having knowledge can be priceless, though there is a price to pay in acquiring it.  

Here are a few points to consider.

  • Step back to move forward. Sometimes the best option is to take a position at a lower rate of pay for the opportunity to gain experience in an organization. By embedding yourself – in a provider organization, or an IT or human resources vendor – you can master skills and gain experience that few others have, creating the opportunity to be rewarded for that knowledge.
  • Self-educate. Become an expert on reporting and transparency requirements. Sundie said that people do not have the time to become experts on this information, which is readily available from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Those who do can position themselves as an organization’s go-to person for all things relating to reporting and transparency. “Anyone with a solid understanding of informatics, quality reporting measures and managing transparency is in high demand,” she said.  
  • Volunteer. The push to boost enrollment in patient portals presents opportunities for the tech-savvy volunteer. By sitting with patients in a waiting room and helping them log onto a patient portal, for example, IT professionals can both gain a broader understanding of the organization’s service population and to fine-tune the information gathering process.
  • Look to vendors. IT vendors are under growing pressure to deliver more sophisticated systems to organizations. Sundie suggests that the entrepreneurial IT professional network with vendors to identify organization that have the need for a project but not the resources required to hire that vendor. One project leads to another, and soon the IT professional will have impressive – and very appealing – skill set and track record.

“Jobs are going to people who take the time to get trained on what’s happening currently,” Sundie said. “Organizations really need people with up-to-the-minute knowledge that they can share.”