Thursday, November 7, 2013

Future looks bright for PACS and Systems Administrators

Janet Skinner, CEO
With all of the challenges to PACS and Systems Administrators posed by healthcare reform, PARCA eNews checked in the Janet Skinner, owner and CEO of Skinner and Associates Executive Search, Inc. to get a snapshot of the career prospects for PACS and Systems Administrators. Skinner and Associates specializes in nationwide recruiting for healthcare imaging, IT and informatics. For this interview, Skinner says she looked at recent job descriptions, and surveyed some recent recruits and her team of five recruiters to broaden her perspective.

Q. With healthcare reform and the other changes occurring in healthcare what do the prospects look like for PACS administrators and systems administrators over the next five to seven years?

A. As we see it, prospects for systems administrators are very bright. Healthcare reform drives care providers to be more efficient while improving patient care. As a result, systems administrators are becoming more valuable as systems are being replaced or being optimized to deliver care more efficiently. Bottom line is prospects are bright and they are more needed than ever.

Q. How is healthcare reform changing the role of PACs administrators? Is it enough to specialize in PAC systems or does one need to branch out?

A. I think that there is a high need for HL7 integration knowledge because there is so much integration going on between PACS and EMRs, RIS, etc. that PACS administrators need to have an in-depth understanding of HL7, they need to know end-to-end imaging work flow, and how all systems integrate to support that work flow. So to answer your question I don’t think it is enough to specialize in an individual PAC system. They need to branch out and learn other areas of the enterprise.

Q. What can one expect to make as a PACS administrator or SA, and what does the future look like in terms of career and earning potential?

A. We deal with PACS or systems administrators, senior systems administrators and the next level is PACS manager. I have salary ranges for all three and these represent the typical career path that I see. To give you a huge range it would be from about $60,000 to $120,000 that’s the broad range for PACS administrators and senior PACS administrators or senior systems administrators. The typical range is more likely to be in the $60,000 to $89,000 with the median being about $74k. The senior system administrator would be more in the $100,000 to $120,000 range and then the PACS manager range would be any where from $110,000 to $140,000.

Q. What do healthcare organizations look for in a prospective PACS or SAs in terms of current skills and their history of upgrading those skills?

A. For the PACS administrator, I’ve noticed a bit of trend de-emphasizing the need to have a rad-tech background, but they do want to see radiology workflow experience and ideally some emphasis in training, certifications, and implementation experience on certain PACS/RIS application systems.

They want to see radiology work-flow experience, and a very IT tech savvy person. But the rad-tech background isn’t as necessary anymore. Now when you get to the senior systems administrator role where the salary range is higher, lots of times they are looking for certification. They ask for CIIP and/or PARCA certification and a background as a radiology tech, or radiology workflow experience, IT tech savvy and experience with the PACS application that is pertinent to that hospital. When I say IT tech savvy, a PACS or system administrator is often the one to bridge the gap between the physicians, the IT group and users of the system. A very strong PACS administrator can help the hospital fill the gap if there is no IS manager. Sometimes they will have a senior imaging administrator instead of a PACS administrator, which is a way to avoid having to hire a IS director.

Q. Does being a certified PACS administrator or Systems Administrator provide an edge in the hiring process?’

A. Right now I’m seeing that being certified is a definite advantage in two different areas. One if they don’t have a lot of experience, a way to get experience is to get certified. But I am also seeing, as time goes by, that it is becoming more important in the higher level positions. Certification is a preference when being hired from outside as opposed to being promoted from within or as a professional development goal. So for those two reasons, I think certifications bodes well for a green candidate and/or a highly experienced candidate in terms of professional development.

Q. What are the differences or preferences for CIIP or PARCA certification?

A. One of my recruiters felt that the difference depended on the career path that PACS administrators could take. She said there are three career tracks for PACS administrators. The first is the technical analyst track and that is someone who specializes in standards so they can assist in mapping HL7 to DICOM attributes and an interface broker, to make sure all exams show up on a modality worklist. This requires PARCA certification. The second career track is the work-flow analyst track, which concentrates on PACS clinical workflow issues so they can design systems to be more efficient. Following a workflow analyst track requires PARCA certification. Third is the organizational track, which involves more coordination and project management of new modalities, implementation of speech recognition, 3D and other projects. Following the organizational track requires CIIP certification. Some PACS administrators might opt to get both so that they have the technical skills from PARCA and organizational skills from CIIP.

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