Is There a Role in the Healthcare Industry for Computer Programmers?

The healthcare and software development industries are experiencing explosive growth, and anyone interested in computers in healthcare should consider a career in health informatics. This field has been around as long as computers have been able to perform simple arithmetic operations, and since the 1950s, health informatics has played an important role in healthcare decision making.

The Role of Software Developers in Healthcare

Today’s healthcare industry uses computers in a much more sophisticated way, and lab scientists are no longer required to analyze the data collected by computers in a research laboratory. These days, patients and doctors can log into Web-based information portals to coordinate treatment plans and schedule appointments. Patients are also increasingly using mobile and wearable devices to stay on regular dosage schedules and monitor vital information such as heart rate and blood pressure.

Programming jobs in the medical field fall into two categories: research and software engineering. The work performed by computer science researchers varies depending on where they work. Researchers working in hospitals and universities are usually the ones working on cutting-edge technology that will be published in scientific journals and used by anyone who needs it. This work is mostly general and theoretical, and it isn’t intended to be used in any particular product. Funding for this research comes from government grants, so the research is made public after it’s finished.

Privately Funded Research

Researchers working for medical supply companies are paid to develop new products that will be sold to hospitals and clinics. Their work is kept private and is patented by the company they work for. Programmers working in these areas develop medical technology such as robots, database models and medical software, and the level of education required depends on where they work. Private companies usually require a master’s in computer science degree but may hire candidates with only a bachelor’s degree in some cases. Universities usually require a PhD but may hire master’s degree holders to do research, especially if they’re PhD students of the university.

In the field of software engineering, computers in healthcare are used to connect patients with doctors and to make the job of doctors and nurses more efficient. Programmers are needed to write the software for medical equipment and for hospital administration. People with computer science skills are needed to analyze clinical data and manage healthcare IT departments. The field of healthcare informatics is growing rapidly, and employment is expected to increase twice as fast in this industry as in other occupations. Salaries range from $64,000 to $144,000 per year, depending on the worker’s level of education and experience.

A Career in Health Informatics

With a bachelor’s degree, jobs such as software developer and clinical analyst become available. With advanced education and experience, jobs such as project manager and lead engineer are available, and these positions often lead to executive positions in hospital and business administration. Computer scientists working in healthcare research usually need a terminal professional degree, and the highest level of employment they can reach is tenured professor. However, there are many opportunities for professors with well-known published work, including lucrative freelance and public speaking jobs.

Health informatics is a booming field, and there are many opportunities for interesting, high-paying work. If you have an interest in how computers in healthcare are used, you should consider pursuing a career in medical software engineering or research.