These are some recent findings by Foote Partners, a Vero Beach, Fla.-based independent IT benchmark research and advisory firm that regularly compiles and analyzes IT pay, skills, and certification data from thousands of U.S. employers. Next week, Foote Partners will release results of a salary survey that examines pay trends for skills and certifications related to the Epic systems.
"Of all the vendors in the EHR/EMR space, the one we kept hearing the most about from our many hospital and health care systems customers and prospects is Epic Systems," said David Foote, co-founder, CEO and chief research officer of Foote Partners. "Epic is by no means the largest vendor, but it seems to have a cachet in the marketplace, a strong product differentiation," he said in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.
[ For more about Epic's strong position in the EHR/EMR market, see Epic Tops List Of Meaningful Use Early Responders. ]
Despite the nearly three dozen professional certifications available for Epic applications and heavy demand for Epic talent, Foote said, "We didn't find that it was very popular for employers to be paying separate premiums for these Epic certifications."
"It’s not like the premiums we’ve been surveying and reporting over the past 18 years for 245 certifications in areas such as security, networking, systems, database, project management, etc.," Foote continued. "There's a gap between Epic talent supply and demand. We thought we’d find pay tied to certifications, but we didn't. It's still too wild West."
According to Foote, the lack of specific pay premiums associated with Epic certifications is similar to what he has seen over the years with another popular software vendor's product certifications, SAP, in the enterprise resource planning arena.
Currently, Epic credentials "are like SAP with certifications. No one pays extra for the certifications," he said. Rather, employers often say they prefer candidates with Epic certifications, but they also look closely at overall skills and experience as well as other certifications, such as project management, relevant to a potential employee's role and responsibilities.
While many healthcare organizations may not have yet figured out formal pay policies to reward talent with specific EMR certifications, the credentials do seem to be important for some hiring employers and clients, said Brock Bauer, managing director of Technisource, a provider of health IT services and staffing, including Epic consultants.
"What we're seeing is that a lot of healthcare companies are afraid of hiring non-certified talent," he said. "It's really more of a fear factor than [a] risk factor."
Epic consultants can currently command between $60 and $100 an hour, and sometimes upward of $200 an hour, according to Foote. But much of the higher pay for Epic talent seems more closely related to retaining people once they're involved with implementations.
Erik Hardin, an Epic-certified consultant who works for Technisource, has seen firsthand the kind of demand that's out there for Epic expertise. "I get 10 to 15 calls a week from recruiters," he said. Hardin has eight Epic certifications, has worked on previous Epic implementations, and is currently engaged in a multi-year Epic EMR rollout at a large hospital system in California.
Hardin enjoys his work as a consultant and the rewards it brings. The 27-year old is making "five times" what he earned a few years ago installing Epic at a hospital near his home in Ohio, he said in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. Earning nearly $100 an hour, Hardin is also racking up thousands of frequent flyer miles from his weekly commute from Ohio to his West Coast client. That's allowed him to vacation in six countries over the last year, fly his girlfriend to California for weekend visits, and arrange a trip to Hawaii for his parents.
The pay and perks compensate Hardin for his heavy travel and frequent 60- to 65-hour work weeks. Eventually, if he tires of the long commutes or if the demand for EMR implementation talent wanes, Hardin says he might consider other health IT-related work within a hospital or other healthcare organization closer to home.
"Even when the implementations are done, there will always be a need for support and enhancement roles," he said. But for now, "I love what I do."
The 2012 InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities Survey finds that grabbing federal incentive dollars and meeting pay-for-performance mandates are the top issues facing IT execs. Find out more in the new, all-digital Time To Deliver issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. (Free registration required.)