February 3, 2011 | | Leave a comment Used to be if you got sick, you went to the doctor and he fixed you up by either giving you a prescription or setting your broken bone or stitching up your gaping wound. But now that medical care costs have skyrocketed to epic proportions, health insurance has become a luxury many Americans simply can’t afford. The Census Bureau concluded that as of 2010 50.7 million people are without health insurance in the United States. That’s over 16% of the population. Obviously something needs to be done. Solutions are in the works, but depending on which side of the political spectrum you’re on, they can be pretty controversial. However, there is one thing everyone seems to agree on; technology is lowering the cost of health care by changing the way medical treatments are managed, which in turn opens the door to a whole new world of previously non-existent careers. As a result, a job void exists in the health care industry and companies are scrambling to fill it. So to help you navigate this wide-open frontier, here are three new, popular health care “spin-off” industries that you may want to consider when choosing a career. 1) Digital Medical Databases When you have a medical problem the first thing your doctor does is run a bunch of tests. Those results are committed to paper and then filed away in the doctor’s office as part of your medical chart. But what happens if you move away and at some point need to see a new doctor? Typically, your new doctor orders the same tests over again, incurring unnecessary costs. According to a 2005 lab test audit documented by the Journal of Clinical Pathology 16.78% of all medical test done in a 12 month period were repeats for the same patients. Fortunately technology affords a solution. In 2004 President Bush launched the Electronic Health Record Initiative, in which he directed the Health and Human Services Department to create a health information technology director to provide “leadership for the development and nationwide implementation of an interoperable health information technology infrastructure,” with the goal of establishing electronic health records for all Americans by 2014. With only three years left the HHS is well on its way to achieving that goal. Patient data is now stored in encrypted digital databases that are made available to approved medical professions. Companies such as NaviNet (which develops and maintains databases that link patient records with physicians, insurance companies, hospitals, pharmacies, and research centers) are looking for professionals with degrees in medical information systems and computer science. Heath Administration is also a plus, but what employers really want are ready-to-hire candidates with the knowledge and training to efficiently store/retrieve electronic medical data on a worldwide basis. 2) Personalized Medicine Personalized medicine is a new philosophy adopted by the medical community that emphasizes individual patient care. Traditionally, patients were treated on a global basis, meaning that five people with the same symptoms, for example, were all given the same medical treatment. But now with personalized medicine those same five people are each treated differently, based on their genetic code and molecular profile. Similarly, personalize medicine emphasizes preventative care instead of reactive cures. This means doctors agree to consider a patient’s lifestyle as part of their ongoing treatment so that patients can make changes to their daily lives to improve their long-term health. As a result, organizations like MDVip have sprung up to administer these new networks of doctors and connect them with patients who want more personal and proactive medical care. To fulfill this need a new branch of health care administration has developed; one that greatly deviates from the traditional practice of simply looking out for hospitals’ best interests. The management of doctor-patient networks is quickly becoming a hot new career opportunity that many colleges and universities are recognizing by offering degrees in personalized medicine, as well as modified versions of health care administration. 3) Healthcare Advocates and Consultants If you get sick enough to incur expensive medical bills, it can be an overwhelming task sorting them out. Now it’s fairly standard practice for medical collection agencies to bill multiple times in a short period for the same procedure. (They figure they’ll get paid quicker that way.) Which is confusing and scary when the bills come flying in for an illness that requires long-term treatment (such as cancer). Due to the recent changes in health care, however, patients now have rights in terms of how and when they pay their medical bills. Therefore, people who have degrees in health care reform, patient advocacy, and health insurance administration are in demand right now. Similarly a whole new branch of law has developed around health care. We’re not talking about the old fashioned ambulance chaser, but rather the litigator who counsels his clients on the ins and outs of our health care system when faced with expensive medical issues. These lawyers are not out to sue hospitals and doctors, but rather help the patient navigate the murky waters of our changing health care system. (And given that it’s not settling down any time soon, this career will be in demand for a quite while.) Unfortunately getting sick in the United States opens the door to many unexpected issues (usually tied to money). But to help us figure out what to do in these cases new careers have quickly developed. In the next 20 years, as health care and medical technology continue to change, these will be the areas in which career growth takes place. Wouldn’t it be nice to eventually be one of those people at the top in those industries? You can do it by getting in on the ground level now.