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Health IT Leaders Biggest Worry: Finding Qualified Staff

Hospital CIOs say their biggest concern is lack of qualified health IT professionals, not a lack of funding, HIMSS survey reveals.

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For the first time in more than a decade, healthcare CIOs did not name inadequate financial support as their top barrier to implementing IT, according to the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) survey of hospital-based IT leaders. Instead, lack of staffing resources was the most significant roadblock, named by 21% of the 302 respondents.

Financial issues came in second, at 14%, slightly ahead of vendor inability to deliver a useful product, which 12% of CIOs said was their No. 1 barrier.

Kay Hix, vice president and CIO of Carillon Clinic in Roanoke, Va., noted that healthcare providers are competing against vendors and high-paying consulting firms for top health IT talent. "We're all trying to gravitate toward the same bucket of [staffing] resources," Hix said Tuesday morning at the 2012 HIMSS conference in Las Vegas.

HIMSS board chair Charlene Underwood, senior director of government and industry affairs for electronic health records (EHR) vendor Siemens Medical Solutions, agreed. "We are staffing up because customers have to meet Meaningful Use [of EHRs] and ICD-10 [coding requirements]," she said.

[ Converting to ICD-10 is important. Learn more: ICD-10 Conversion: Do Or Die. ]

Not surprisingly, a plurality of CIOs--38%--said that earning the federal incentive payments for achieving Meaningful Use was their top IT priority for the next two years, far outstripping any other option. Still, that was down from 49% a year ago, possibly reflecting the fact that some hospitals met the Stage 1 Meaningful Use requirements in 2011. Hix noted that her organization had to have its EHR fully operational by early 2010 in order to get to Meaningful Use a year later.

About 30% of respondents said their organizations had already attested to Stage 1 Meaningful Use or had planned on doing so before the end of 2011; HIMSS conducted the survey in December and January. Almost half expect to attest this year, leaving less than a quarter that do not plan on achieving Stage 1 Meaningful Use until 2013 or later.

"Federal incentives continue to drive IT decisions at healthcare organizations," said Jennifer Horowitz, director of research at HIMSS Analytics, the research arm of the health IT trade group.

Hospitals fully expect their hard work and additional costs associated with meeting Meaningful Use requirements to pay off. In fact, not a single survey participant anticipated zero return on their investment, while 13% said they expected to realize returns of $10 million or more. While 20% said their ROI will be less than $2 million, nearly half pegged their eventual financial gain at $2 million to $7 million.

"We didn't get into this just to meet the federal requirements," said Todd Richardson, CIO of Deaconess Health System in Evansville, Ind., one of just 65 hospitals in the nation to reach Stage 7--the highest level--on the HIMSS Analytics EMR Adoption Model as of November. Instead, the organization saw its EHR as a path to safer, more efficient care, "The Meaningful Use dollars are just gravy," Richardson said.

Interestingly, particularly in the wake of last week's news that the federal government would push back the deadline for providers to switch to ICD-10 coding, 89% of survey respondents said they would be ready by the original Oct. 1, 2013, compliance date.

HIMSS and other health IT advocacy groups have urged their members to keep moving forward on ICD-10 preparedness. HIMSS CEO H. Stephen Lieber said that his reading of the announcement by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius suggested that federal officials were prepared to offer a delay only to "certain" providers. Physician practices are far behind hospitals in terms of ICD-10 readiness, he noted.

Healthcare providers must collect all sorts of performance data to meet emerging standards. The new Pay For Performance issue of InformationWeek Healthcare delves into the huge task ahead. Also in this issue: Why personal health records have flopped. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Apprentice
2/22/2012 | 5:26:28 PM
re: Health IT Leaders Biggest Worry: Finding Qualified Staff
What a fascinating survey coming out of HIMSS. With the growth of EHRs and mobile devices in the hospitals, itGÇÖs not surprising that CIOs need more staff to help with the influx. But they can also look to the right technology in order to ease the staffing concerns while ensuring security measures are in place.

ThatGÇÖs what weGÇÖre seeing at HIMSS, booth #7913. By talking to CIOs and IT administrators about their needs, especially as the growth of tablets and smartphones continues, they realize that with the right tools, proper security measurements can be put in place without the need for a large investment in new employees. ThatGÇÖs because with the right tools, a single IT administrator can ensure that any tablet, smartphone or laptop connecting to the hospital network has the proper security measurements in place. And by doing so, theyGÇÖre allowing doctors and patients to experience the full benefits of mobile and EHRs.

Stephen Midgley, Absolute Software
User Rank: Apprentice
2/22/2012 | 3:27:04 PM
re: Health IT Leaders Biggest Worry: Finding Qualified Staff
Blopez902, trust me you won't see them. This people are afraid that, once they train any IT person their workflow, their jobs are at stake. They know better, if we in IT can change quickly, they should know we will pick on their skill sets better than the current healthcare workers (not IT). Oh yes, let them give an IT person a 6-months training, we will replace many of them with automation!
User Rank: Apprentice
2/22/2012 | 8:42:05 AM
re: Health IT Leaders Biggest Worry: Finding Qualified Staff
Even with medical IT hobbled and restricted even more than at other organizations, the US medical community is still leading the way in digital healthcare technology. For the first time, a lack of available medical IT personnel available in the employment pool exceeds financial concerns. Hopefully, this means that there will be an increase in medical IT hirings. With that said, a lot of medical organizations are looking for IT workers with clinical backgrounds, so the news of more IT hirings may be greatly exaggerated. Clever IT companies can make a lot of money by offering multiple medical organizations help in reaching their technology obligations at a competitive cost, by leveraging medical IT expertise across multiple clients. If it was properly leveraged, that kind of medical IT work could be done much more efficiently, thoroughly, and inexpensively by a third-party IT company than by individual IT workers in a medical environment.

--- Jonathon
User Rank: Apprentice
2/22/2012 | 2:03:36 AM
re: Health IT Leaders Biggest Worry: Finding Qualified Staff
So where are all the open jobs requisites? Don't see them here in Ca.
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2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
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