2011 was a challenging year for healthcare IT professionals. Providers rolled out electronic health record systems to qualify for the government's Meaningful Use financial incentives. Meanwhile, mobile health apps took off, e-prescribing increased, health info exchanges got a start, and some organizations suffered data breaches. On the plus side, more health IT jobs became available.
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The U.S. government estimates that the Meaningful Use initiative and related programs are fueling demand for about 50,000 new health IT professionals in the next few years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of health IT jobs across the country is expected to grow by 20% from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. To help prepare the future workforce, there were a number of program roll-outs in 2011 from the American College of Physician Executives, the training firm Alameda, and HITECH Act-funded efforts, including regional extension centers.
Despite these initiatives, job-seeking health IT professionals and prospective employers complain about skills mismatches and gaps. For instance, when InformationWeek Healthcare readers learned recently that the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA) were working together to match job seekers to thousands of expected vacancies in health IT, many reacted with excitement, but others expressed skepticism and cynicism.
"I have spoken to many highly qualified and experienced IT resources who have applied for positions in the Healthcare industry and the response is typically 'do you have experience as a nurse or as a healthcare practitioner?'," wrote one commenter. "Until the healthcare industry rejects the notion that you have to have medical experience to bring your IT skills to bear, they will continue to struggle with innovation and improved service to the public."
Among other organizations trying to bridge the skills gap is the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), which is helping train clinical professionals to fill high-level roles such as chief medical information officer and chief nursing information officer.