2009 Health IT Salary Survey

Health IT is clearly a hot topic for 2009.

The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or ARRA as most refer to it) that President Barack Obama signed into law in February—that federally mandated electronic health records (EHRs)—has brought health IT, and people who oversee it, into the forefront across healthcare organizations of all types and sizes. As the focus on integrating technology and medical applications narrows, medial informatics positions are gaining traction and importance, serving as management liaisons to C-suite executives and clinical leaders. In response to this growing trend, we have expanded our annual Health IT Salary Survey to include chief medical officers, chief medical information officers and directors/managers of medical informatics. Some 400 health IT professionals shared their salaries and knowledge.

Over the next several pages, we take a look at eight health IT professionals to see how much they are earning, if they expect to receive a raise or bonus this year, how many FTEs they supervise, their years of experience and what departments they report to.

Taking a deeper dive into the data, we detail the top business and IT priorities for health IT executives, with an eye on their purchasing considerations for 2009. Yes, healthcare facilities are still purchasing, albeit with great thought and conservatism; and even if capital expenditures are on hold, most people are taking advantage of this breather to investigate very carefully their next batch of purchases. (See "Hard Times Call for Smart IT Planning: Purchasing is Down, But Hospitals 'Shopping' Now for Upturn" on page 42.) It is in tough economic times that IT strategists and decision-makers become even more selective about what to purchase and from where to purchase it.

The Fine Print

Throughout March and April, Health Imaging & IT hosted an online survey on Healthimaging.com that asked respondents to share information on demographics, compensation and health IT priorities for 2009. The findings illustrated here are compiled from approximately 400 responses. Duplicate and incomplete surveys were not included in tabulating the results.


The Breakdown

This year, IS/IT has overtaken radiology by a slight margin as the department that most health IT folks tell us they work for (42 percent). Of course, radiology—which was last year’s most-often cited department—holds a close second with 40 percent of survey respondents reporting within that department.

The community hospital is the workplace of the largest group of this year’s respondents (28 percent), a change from last year when multi-hospitals systems and integrated delivery networks was tops (12 percent). 

If you look around your department, you’ll see that our results likely mirror you and your colleagues—with the majority of health IT professionals being male (67 percent) between the ages of 46 to 55 who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. With age comes experience—the majority of respondents report having at least 7 to 9 years (25 percent) of experience in health IT, while a third have 10 to 25 years of experience.

The economic downturn might have been in full force by the end of 2008, but the majority of our survey respondents report they received at least a 3 percent raise last year; however, the expectations for 2009 are mixed. CMIOs, CMOs, VP/directors/managers of information systems and technical services and PACS administrators all expect to receive at the very least a 3 percent raise in 2009, while for everyone else, a raise is not in the cards. Additionally, CMIOs and CMOs are the only ones eyeing a bonus in 2009.

So are health IT leaders satisfied with their salaries in the chart below? Thirty percent say they are satisfied, while 16 percent are very satisfied—only 7 percent are very dissatisfied. Some 54 percent tell us they are very satisfied with health IT as a career choice (only 1.4 percent are very dissatisfied). That said, only 11 percent of respondents plan to change jobs this year—with 93 percent saying they'll stay in healthcare.



Who’s Buying What and Why?

We hear news of hospitals cutting capital spending and freezing planned or current IT projects in an effort to weather the economic storm. However, our data reveal that while the majority of respondents might not be planning on upgrading or replacing current systems, they are budgeting their IT dollars for new, select investments in the year ahead, driven by various business and IT priorities, and of course, provisions in the ARRA.

If we take a look at the data beyond salaries, top business and IT priorities grab our attention. IT leaders tell us improving quality of patient care is still the top business concern, which directly correlates to their top IT priority—reducing medical errors. For IT concerns, patient satisfaction ranks next followed by translating business processed into IT solutions and improving organizational workflow.

Ranking second on the IT priorities list is improving data security, followed by delivering clinical knowledge to physicians and disaster recovery—all important priorities for a healthcare organization to support the delivery of quality patient care and improving business processes.

IT decision-makers told us computerized provider order entry (CPOE) software is the top IT investment on the table for 2009, followed closely by personal health records (PHRs), clinical decision support (CDS) and electronic medical records (EMRs). EMRs can help reduce overall hospital costs while PHRs give patients online access to their own medical records—a direct correlation to the top priorities of our respondents—satisfying patients and improving the quality of patient care.