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IT Staffing Shortages Stymie Healthcare CIOs

Implementation of electronic health records and eligibility for stimulus funding are likely to be compromised by IT staffing deficiencies in more than half of healthcare organizations, according to CHIME survey results.
Hickman said Albany dedicated an IS employee to departmental recruitment. "We also started doing more transfers inside of IS for the sake of career progression, at the same time looking outside of IS at people in clinical roles and saying, 'Who has the competence to be able to move into some of the roles we're doing.' In addition we, how do I say this, kind of watched the talent in the region that are situated in other organizations to know who some of the better players are."

And while Hickman's watching the players in his region, Doug Abel, VP and CIO, Anne Arundel Health System, said local players are watching him. "(Retention) is one of our biggest challenges right now. We've been live for 10 months (on Epic) and we've got people with two-plus years of working on the project. In the region, we have two very large organizations that are starting up Epic projects, and where do you think they're going to find people? We have the most marketable people in the region for Epic, and we're running scared right now. We're actually not only looking at market-based adjustments, we're going to create a premium on top of that because we know our people are so marketable right now."

CHIME surveyed its members in early September to assess the potential impact of staffing shortages on IT operations, particularly as organizations move to implement clinical systems to qualify for stimulus funding under the HITECH Act. A total of 182 CIOs responded to the survey, or about 13 percent of CHIME's membership.

The lack of sufficient IT staffing for the healthcare industry is a widely acknowledged concern as hospitals attempt to rapidly implement clinical systems. Some estimates suggest there is a shortage of 50,000 qualified HIT personnel. Because only a small percentage of hospitals and professionals have such IT in place, many organizations are expected to try to implement the technology quickly in the next few years.

Hickman said it's just this dynamic which makes staffing so difficult. "You can imagine that, in any particular region, most folks are doing it at the same time, so you have all those forces of everyone trying to grab for the talent pool."

Anthony Guerra is the founder and editor of healthsystemCIO.com, a site dedicated to serving the strategic information needs of healthcare CIOs. He can be reached at [email protected].