The answer is: yes and no. In other words, "it depends."
Many physicians gain valuable health IT experience without any formal education or training in informatics. They don't have a master's in science in medical informatics. They never completed a biomedical informatics fellowship. They simply have the proper level of experience and they also found the right opportunities.
Will formal education/training be beneficial? Yes. However, it may not guarantee anything unless you want to stay in the world of academia and publish papers related to health IT. Physicians tend to place a tremendous amount of focus and emphasis on formal education, but we often forget that such education may not get us anywhere if we lack relevant work experience.
If you're not able to invest the time and resources to pursue formal education and training, I would suggest some of these options:
- Attend a major health IT meeting like HIMSS, AHIMA, or AMDIS. From there, you should make every effort to meet people, ask the right questions, and determine if you need formal education (such as a master's degree, a biomedical informatics fellowship, or CPHIMS) to pursue opportunities in the health IT industry. Based on your background and your level of experience, you may conclude that you need that formal training and education.
- Meet other physicians and nurses who currently work in health IT. Maybe they're a CMIO or a medical director of informatics. Maybe you know some nurses working in clinical informatics. Perhaps they're consulting for a health IT company. Examine their backgrounds and see how they got to those positions. One of the best way to meet people is through social networking websites like LinkedIn. Also, you can leverage Twitter and other social media tools to meet health care professionals working in health IT.
- Get involved with health IT committees in your hospital, your outpatient practice, your clinic, etc. Volunteer your time and look for opportunities where you can contribute. Perhaps your office needs to switch from paper records to electronic records. Are you willing to spearhead a committee to choose an EHR solution and implement it? What if your hospital is trying to reduce medical errors in the CPOE system?
- As you learn more about health IT, determine a focus area in health IT. Do you want to focus on outpatient EHR utilization? Quality control? Reducing medical errors in the hospital setting? PHR and EHR integration? Performance improvement? Data integration? Interoperability?
- Evaluate your knowledge level regarding the health IT industry. Are you familiar with the acronyms, or do you feel lost when people throw out: CCHIT, CPOE, HIMSS, ASP, FHA, HL7, and others?
- How quickly can you learn, and are you able to invest time to teach yourself?