Survey Finds Pay Rising in Health IT

The HIMSS survey found that three-quarters of health IT professionals got raises last year, with those at consulting firms netting the biggest paychecks.

Three-quarters of health IT professionals got raises last year, according to a survey released Thursday by HIMSS (Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society), a professional organization. The average salary for survey respondents was $96,568, up from $91,268 in a similar 2002 survey.

On average, health IT respondents at consulting firms had the biggest salaries ($116,696) and raises (7.4 percent); their counterparts at physicians offices received the second-largest raises (5.9 percent) but had the lowest average salary ($74,386).

John Hummel, CIO of Sutter Health in Northern California, told that the push for electronic medical records is shaping the job market. "Most IDNs [integrated delivery networks] and hospitals have fast-tracked the EMR into very quick installation," he said, ramping up demand for vendors and consultants.

Though Sutter Health has consistently been ranked as a top place to work in IT, Hummel said, a few of its EMR-trained employees have left to work as consultants for higher salaries.

Right now, Hummel said, EMR-certified professionals are the hardest to find. "We have 40 current job openings, mainly in EMR and patient accounting." Sutter Health, a nonprofit network of hospitals and physician organizations, also plans to hire more consultants and professionals in 2005.

"From a recruiting perspective, the labor market appears to be getting tighter," said Laura Gunn, recruiting manager at consulting practice Capgemini Health.

"Health information is definitely one of our hot areas, particularly clinical informatics." In an interview with, Gunn said her firm is "aggressively pursuing additional talent" in clinical informatics, electronic health records and patient safety. "There is a finite amount of talent out there," she said. "We will be competing with providers and payers, as well as software vendors."

Nonetheless, while 75 percent of respondents in the survey received raises in 2003, 79 percent did in 2001. The value of raises also was slightly down. Average salary increases at software companies were 5.6 percent in 2003 compared with 7.9 percent in 2001.

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On the other hand, individual membership in HIMSS apparently grew by about 2,000 individuals between the two HIMSS surveys. According to a survey by ComputerWorld, here in PDF form, health IT professionals consistently make less than their counterparts in aerospace and business.

As in previous surveys, men earned more and receive higher raises than women. The average female salary ($83,346) in health IT was 78 percent of the average male salary ($106,587) in 2003. In 2001, average female pay was 80 percent of average male pay for health IT professionals, according to the 2002 HIMSS salary survey.

The professional level continued to have the widest disparity in salary. Associate staff, such as programmer analysts and systems administrators, earned an average wage of $48,290 and a raise of 4.2 percent. For senior managers, these figures were $137,705 and 6.0 percent. CEOs averaged almost $200,000 per year.

Respondents in New England, the Pacific Coast and the Middle Atlantic tended to earned more than their counterparts in other parts of the country, as did respondents working at companies with revenues of $500 million or more.

The results are based on 1,352 responses returned to HIMSS. The organization solicited survey participants through its Web site and by e-mailing its 15,000 members and other health IT professionals, and by asking recipients to pass the invitation on to other appropriate professionals. The survey did not assess unemployment figures or track salaries by highest degree obtained.

Results of the survey are available here in PDF form.

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