I’m excited today to give you a career highlight on one of the most important jobs in a Healthcare IT department, the Clinical Systems Analyst. The way this job is packaged may vary from one organization to another. Some organizations may consider the Clinical Systems Analyst to be someone who works with systems from a high level architecture angle. This differs from an Applications Analyst, who implements, supports, and trains clinical systems, but does not work much with the underlying architecture. In other organizations, we may be talking about more of a Systems Administrator, who is responsible for the implementation and support of core technical infrastructure. Let’s look at both approaches.
The Architecture Approach
An example project for a Clinical Systems Analyst may be the selection of a new product that needs to run on the same platform as a legacy system, such as Unix. This person will have a solid knowledge of how a given system will perform on the Unix servers, and be able to determine if more hardware, memory, networking resources, or processing speed is needed. The Clinical Systems Analyst is also able to predict how the new system will affect other existing technology in the organization. Some other skills they need to have are:
- Systems design
- Power management of systems
- Various operating systems
- Understanding of Healthcare regulatory requirements
I should also point out that a Clinical Systems Analyst will have different roles depending on if his or her IT department is a development shop or not. This is an important distinction in that many IT departments (including mine) do not consider themselves to be in the development business. For example, when the need arises for new software program, a non-development department will only look to external vendors to supply the technology as opposed to looking at developing their own solutions using in-house programmers. Additionally, a non-development IT shop will not ask their vendors for access to a system’s source code. On the flip side, a development shop such as The Mayo Clinic has a lot of programmers, and thus their Systems Analysts have different roles from non-development organizations.
The Systems Administrator Approach
If an organization defines the Clinical Systems Analyst as more of a Systems Administrator, then their duties may include less design and more of the day-to-day monitoring, maintenance, and implementation of the servers and other technology that support various applications. In this role, the Clinical Systems Analyst works with hardware, software, and networking configuration, server maintenance, and possibly some firewall administration. Many times this person is certified in more than one operating system, as well as Citrix administration.
Clinical Systems Analyst Job Outlook and Career Path
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists this job as having a very high growth prediction of 25% from 2012 through 2022. To prepare for this position, you need various networking, operating systems and design experience, which usually includes certifications. If you are just starting your IT career, then you would need to begin in a position such as desktop or networking support, and then take college level classes in Systems Administration. Unlike some application support positions, it’s not easy to move into this position without some formal training and paying your dues along the way.
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