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Trouble Finding Qualified Healthcare IT Professionals?

February 15

You're not alone and in fact, the challenges are becoming well documented. The Department of Health and Human Services has largely acknowledged that we don't have enough qualified healthcare IT workers to create and maintain the complex healthcare computer systems that must be in place by 2014 and The American Recovery & Reinvest Act (AARA) of 2009 has further intensified this situation as organizations try to position themselves in the adoption of 'meaningful use' to do so.

When planning a recruitment strategy, the best approach begins with knowledge. So before we dive into how to source for these professionals, let's first understand how your organization will be positioned, based on a very basic review of the driving legislation and definitions. (As this is a very complex discussion, much more detailed information can be found on topical reviews on the HIMSS website.)

  • The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed into law by President Obama in February 2009, aims to stimulate the economy through investments in infrastructure, unemployment benefits, transportation, education, and healthcare. It includes over $20 billion to aid in the development of a robust IT infrastructure for healthcare and to assist providers and other entities in adopting and using health IT.
  • What was the purpose of the law? Congress designed the legislation to improve US healthcare through the development of a solid health information infrastructure, while simultaneously stimulating the economy through new investment and job growth. But, hospitals and provider groups have expressed concern that only hospitals that are considered 'meaningful users' of electronic health records (EHRs) can receive the much needed financial assistance in moving toward broader adoption of EHRs.
  • What is meaningful use? Meaningful use of certified EHR technologies is a term used in the ARRA that is clearly defined by five broad goals that further the goal of information exchange among health professionals — a requirement for grants and aid. Meaningful use of certified EHR technologies also means they can earn a Medicare or Medicaid incentive payment(s) by demonstrating meaningful use of a certified EHR technology; although this was only recently clearly defined.

Note: The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program begins October 1, 2010 for hospitals and January 1, 2011 for eligible professionals. Beginning October 1, 2014 (for hospitals) or January 1, 2015 (for eligible professionals) any hospital or eligible professional that bills Medicare or Medicaid for services rendered — but cannot demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology — will receive less than 100% of the fee schedule.

So, depending on the size and nature of your organization's services, the need to build a healthcare IT team has become a business imperative. Open requisitions are remaining open for months and even up to a year in some cases, without much success in filling these roles as hospitals and providers face these facts to varying degrees. The staffing shortages will also affect EHR implementation and other projects so staffing them will require more than the standard tactical approaches.

How dire? According to a recent survey by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), more than 60 percent of responding CIO's reported that IT staffing deficiencies will possibly (51 percent) or definitely (10 percent) affect their chances to implement an EHR and receive stimulus funding. And in general, the larger the healthcare organization, the greater the percentage of IT staff positions that were open.

To counteract these shortages, organizations are adopting a number of strategies, but only 13% are focused on using recruiters to find and place qualified staff. Additional recommendations include:

  • Recruit and train/educate from your internal clinical talent pool
  • Reduce tight requirements and recruit basic IT skill sets that can be adapted
  • Heavily incentivize your employee referral program
  • Focus on retention for existing IT staff

How does your current strategy stack up? CHIME Survey respondents' breaks down their strategies as follows:

For a full copy of the CHIME Staffing Survey, click here.

Lastly, although CHIME members who responded to an August 2010 survey appear cautiously optimistic about their chances for achieving stimulus funding under the HITECH portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the best approach is not a wait and see with regards to possible changes in 'meaningful use' requirements but rather staying competitive and aggressively filling your talent pipeline with this very sought after talent now.

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