Technology Careers in Health Care

Technology is transforming the healthcare industry, and today there are more jobs than ever that combine medicine with technological advancements and information management to improve patient outcomes. From radiology technicians who use the latest in digital imaging to database administrators who manage electronic health records systems, there are numerous career paths to choose from in this rewarding field.

See if any of these popular health tech careers peak your interest and learn more about what's required to pursue them.

Medical Lab Careers

A variety of healthcare careers are available in a medical laboratory setting, and these jobs are largely technical in nature. They involve operating lab equipment such as a centrifuge, a microscope, and other sophisticated technology to perform lab tests and assess bodily fluid samples to help physicians diagnose illness. Lab techs, also known as medical technologists, generally have very little interaction with patients, if any.

If you have a strong interest in science and a passion for public health, you may be a good fit for this career path. To start out at entry-level, you'll need a two-year associate's degree to become a medical laboratory technician (MLT) and complete a certification exam.

The next level is medical technologist (medical lab scientist), which requires a bachelor's degree and internship in a lab, followed by a certification exam. At this level, you have more career opportunities.

There are options for further academic study, including a master's degree in medical laboratory technology and even a doctoral program.

Look into your state's specific requirements regarding licensure for medical lab professionals.

Medical lab careers are great options if you want a job that has a major impact on patient care without a lot of patient interaction. Medical lab professionals often perform most of the tests that determine patients' diagnoses, including matching blood transfusion samples, analyzing spinal fluid, and assessing microscopic cells for disease.

Ultrasound Technician

An ultrasound technician, also known as a diagnostic sonographer, operates an ultrasound machine that uses sound waves to bounce back images of internal organs, muscles, and tissues for the purpose of imaging.

Ultrasound technology is utilized for diagnosing a wide variety of medical conditions in addition to its role in prenatal care, where it is used to gauge the development of a fetus.

Ultrasound technicians work closely with patients, and this career path is ideal for people who have a drive to help others and a great bedside manner.

Technicians are trained in using sonography equipment, also known as a transducer, and in identifying disease or injury. They most often work in hospitals, though some work out of physicians' offices or in a medical or diagnostic lab.

There are several avenues for training, including a one-year degree from a vocational school, a two-year associate's degree, or a four-year bachelor's degree, though the latter is less common.

Radiologic Technician

Radiologic technicians, or "rad techs," operate the various pieces of imaging equipment that are used to diagnose various injuries and conditions in patients. This includes CT scanning machines, MRIs, and X-ray equipment.

Rad tech positions require a certain amount of comfort working directly with patients: gently positioning them into the right place for the best image, being conscious of potential pain or fear, and protecting them from excess radiation exposure. The job also requires a level of technological savvy to operate complex image machinery.

It can be a highly fulfilling and rewarding career path, combining high-tech skills with plenty of patient interaction.

Most positions require at minimum a two-year degree, followed by a national certification and state licensure.

Radiologist

A radiologist is a physician who specializes in reading digital images of patients taken by various scanning machines to determine a patient's diagnosis.

Radiologists may diagnose cancers, bone breaks or fractures, heart problems, brain conditions, tumors, and just about any other issue that is large enough to be seen with the human eye via an electronic or digital image.

Radiologists are one of the few types of physicians who do not interact much, if at all, with patients. Typically, a radiologist will communicate their findings directly to the physician who ordered the scan, such as a primary care doctor, orthopedic surgeon, or oncologist, for example.

Training is similar to that of other physicians, requiring completion of a four-year bachelor's degree and four years of medical school to receive an M.D.

Radiologists are among the highest-paid physicians and have the added benefit of being able to work remotely via teleradiology technology. (Almost all images are now produced digitally instead of on the analog film of the past.)

Cardiovascular Technologist

A cardiovascular technologist, or CVT, works in the cardiac cath lab to help conduct catheterizations of the arteries in patients experiencing potential heart disease or blockages. These catheterizations facilitate both the viewing and diagnosis of the heart problem, as well as the repair of the issue, in some cases, depending its severity and nature.

CVTs work alongside physicians to perform stenting procedures, implanting pacemakers and defibrillators, and apply tests to diagnose heart disease and other issues.

CVTs may specialize in three areas:

  • Cardiac sonography
  • Invasive cardiology
  • Vascular technology and sonography

Education requirements to become a CVT usually includes a two- or four-year degree, plus one year of core coursework and an additional year of specialized training in the area of your choosing.

Healthcare IT

The field of health information technology (healthcare IT), or healthcare information management (HIM), is rapidly growing and encompasses some of the highest-paying jobs in the field that do not require a medical degree.

Aside from the routine technology needs of medical offices, there is an increasing demand for electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records (EHRs) to be implemented at hospitals and physicians' offices around the country. This has resulted in the need for a variety of healthcare IT professionals, ranging from database administrators and systems managers, to security specialists, trainers, and network administrators, just to name a few.

Backgrounds in coding and computer science are helpful precursors for careers in this field.

A bachelor's degree in a related area is usually the minimum education requirement for an entry-level position, and there are several graduate programs and specialized certifications available in healthcare IT that will make your résumé more attractive to potential employers.

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