In the early days of his health IT career, Frank Myeroff implemented a new software package for a medical practice dealing with gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. “This new technology was basically a camera, but it was higher definition, higher quality, much smaller and much easier to control. They could see things they couldn't see before,” he remembers.
Because the system was new, Myeroff wanted to be present to provide training or fix any bugs. “One of the doctors came up and said, ‘I want to show you something.’ I was thinking something was wrong. He pointed to someone's scan on a screen, and he said, ‘Do you see this? They have cancer. In our old system that we used last week, I never would have seen this. We saved this person's life.’"
Now the president and co-founder of Direct Consulting Associates, a health IT staffing consulting and HIMSS Innovation Center collaborator, Myeroff said this early personal experience demonstrated to him how a health IT professional can profoundly impact someone's life. “There are people that are, let's say, data geeks like I am,” he stated. “While becoming a physician or nurse wasn’t right for me, I can be that data geek and still help people.”
Gaining health care knowledge and experience is crucial
To break into the health IT field, having the ability to work with data is important. However, having healthcare experience is crucial, he said. “Maybe you are a technical person. Maybe you are a networker in infrastructure or you are a certain type of programmer in certain applications or application languages. Maybe you are a job developer or a web developer or something like that. Healthcare people will say to you, and you will hear this all the time. Healthcare is different,” he emphasized.
“What they mean by that, it's a different mindset. In any industry, when you go and you meet with your customers, knowing their lingo, their acronyms, those kinds of things matter,” Myeroff stated. For example, electronic health records (EHRs) are creating massive amounts of data that can be built into data warehouses and be useful for clinical decision support and population health management. “But you can't build the models if you don't understand the data, and the data is all about health outcomes, right? It's such a different language that it is very hard to speak it, if you don't have exposure to it or understand it or do something with it,” he said.
For this reason, Myeroff encourages individuals aspiring to a career in health IT to gain healthcare exposure in any way possible. Getting an internship in healthcare is a possibility. Any kind of experience in health can be helpful, even if you work as a volunteer, Myeroff said, because it provides exposure to patients, doctors and other aspects of healthcare. “Do whatever you can to be inside the system. It matters,” he stated. “Do anything you can do to learn the space. Talk to anybody you know in your family or in your network of people that are in the space, and from that you will learn the acronyms and language.”
Showing desire to learn and do new things required for advancement
Once in the health IT field, Myeroff said it’s important to have the desire to learn new things. He sees tremendous opportunities around data, usability, customer experience and cybersecurity. Usability and customer experience are important because clinicians must enter documentation into an EHR during a patient appointment, and both doctors and patients agree that this task can impede patient care, he said. Developers are “trying to find ways to capture data more efficiently and easier and to allow the clinicians to spend more time with the patients and not in front of the computer,” he explained. He added that cybersecurity would likely be the largest growth space for health IT in the next few years, as breaches become more of a concern.
The payoff when finding a position and advancing in health IT is job satisfaction and security, Myeroff said. Healthcare comprises about 20 percent of the economy and all health care organizations will continue to have strong IT needs for some time, he explained. “If you are the kind of person that wants to be part of the new things, it should never get old,” adding that over time, you will likely be trained on new systems, if you show the desire to learn. “In healthcare you have so much change every day. It's a great space to be, and I would like to see more people in it and see the excitement in it.”
Frank Myeroff is president and co-founder of Direct Consulting Associates; he has served client needs in the IT consulting industry for over 25 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.directrecruiters.com