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3/15/2010
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Demand For Healthcare IT Talent Growing

Over the last six months, there's been an across-the-board uptick in all IT jobs posted on Dice.com, and the demand for health IT positions is growing even faster than most, says a company executive.

Over the last six months, there's been an across-the-board uptick in all IT jobs posted on Dice.com, and the demand for health IT positions is growing even faster than most, says a company executive.In the last six months, the total number of IT jobs posted on Dice.com increased by about 17% to about nearly 60,000. At the same time, health IT related positions listed on the job site have jumped about 50%.

But before you get too excited about the growth that Dice is seeing in health IT jobs posted on its site over the last half-year, keep this in perspective: Only about 2,000 of the approximately 60,000 IT jobs currently posted on Dice are health IT positions, says Tom Silver, Dice senior VP of North America. The rest are in a variety of industries, including financial services--an even bigger IT job market for Dice, he says.

Nonetheless, with the rotten economy (hopefully) improving a bit, and new HITECH-bill-inspired e-medical record projects being readied by healthcare providers across the U.S., the upward swing in health IT jobs is just beginning, predicted Silver in an interview with InformationWeek.

(Financial services and banking are also beginning to see a rebound in IT hiring Silver said. Generally, the harder the fall, the bigger the surge, he says. And 2008 was a tough one on IT jobs in financial services and banking, he says.)

Of the approximately 2,000 health IT jobs posted on Dice right now, about 230 of them are EMR-project related, Silver says. That's up from about 150 jobs six months ago. "The number of positions is still small in EMR, but is growing quickly," he says.

Among those open EMR jobs are positions at healthcare providers, IT vendors and services and consulting firms, says Silver. Openings include an EMR business analyst job at Computer Sciences Corp. as well as a program director position at Kaiser-Permanente's Silver Springs, Maryland to oversee KP HealthConnect, the company's EMR.

Besides staffing EMR projects, employers are looking for health IT talent to fill lots of mid-level programming and database positions, and also about 60 positions related to computerized physician order entry systems, says Silver.

As more employers seek new talent for health IT initiatives, Silver predicts that those jobs will become increasingly difficult to fill. "These jobs are becoming more and more complex, and there are fewer people to fill them," he says.

During the HIMSS conference in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, some CIOs were already complaining about the difficulty of finding clinical IT talent and staff poaching that's starting to happen as competitors deploy new health IT programs.

As talent wars begin breaking out, employers will need to pay more attention on retention planning, advices Silver. Even if an organization is strapped for money and freezes pay for existing staff, they'll need to find non-monetary ways of keeping IT talent engaged, even if it's a matter of professional development and training to keep skills fresh. "There are non-financial ways to retain talent, and that will become critical," he says.

Meanwhile, median pay in 2009 for mid-level health IT jobs, including programming and database positions, was about $79,600 according to a Dice survey, says Silver. Pay in 2009 was "virtually flat" for all IT jobs--including health IT positions--compared with 2008, he says.

If talent wars for health IT skills do indeed heat up the way many predict, pay scales should begin climbing upward for clinical IT jobs in the months ahead.

Stay tuned. InformationWeek will release findings of its own annual IT salary survey in coming weeks.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on this year's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference. This report offers the best healthcare IT advice, insight, and analysis coming out of that conference. Download the report here (registration required).

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