Demand For Health IT Talent Rising

Robert Half Technology and Manpower among staffing firms reporting that projected demand by clients for health IT skills will rise early next year.
Healthcare CIOs are among IT leaders with the most ambitious hiring plans for early next year, says a new report from IT staffing and outsourcing firm Robert Half Technology.

The push by healthcare providers nationwide to implement new electronic health records and other clinical systems in time to reap federal stimulus rewards that start in 2011 has 16% of healthcare CIOs planning to increase hiring in the first quarter of 2010. Only 3% expect staff reductions. So, a net of 13% of healthcare CIOs are planning to expand their staffs in the first quarter.

Also, 55% of healthcare CIOs said they expect their organizations to invest in IT projects during the first quarter. Nearly one quarter -- 22% -- of healthcare CIOs attribute their hiring plans to the development and rollout of enterprise systems.

The Robert Half Technology phone survey of 1,400 CIOs included 235 IT leaders in healthcare services. Healthcare CIOs were about four times more likely to say they'll add IT staff than the national sample of CIOs surveyed across all industries. Only a net 3% of CIOs nationwide expected to add IT staff. That reflects 7% of CIOs planning to expand their IT workforce and 4% expecting cutbacks.

Only CIOs in the wholesale and retail industries expect more aggressive hiring in the first quarter than healthcare CIOs. A net of 16% wholesale CIOs expect to increase their staffs, while a net 8% of retail CIOs predicted hiring new IT talent.

Also, over the last quarter the percentage of healthcare CIOs planning to expand their IT teams jumped nearly three-fold. A Robert Half Technology survey of 244 healthcare CIOs in September found that only 5% expected to increase hiring for the fourth quarter of 2009.

Robert Half Technology isn't the only staffing company that's reporting a spike in healthcare IT hiring. Over the last 11 weeks, Manpower has also seen an uptick in talent demands from healthcare clients, including healthcare providers, health systems development and services firms, and payers, said Jill Harlamert, VP of project solutions for Manpower professional services.

Looking ahead to the first quarter of 2010, Manpower healthcare industry clients expect a net hiring increase of 4% over the first quarter of 2009. First quarter hiring projections for 2010 are also a 2% increase over the fourth quarter, said Harlamert. Manpower healthcare clients are seeking IT skills related to systems integration, development, programming, and project management, she said.

According to Robert Half Technology, among the top technical skill sets that surveyed healthcare CIOs say their IT organizations are seeking include network administration (75%); desktop support (75%); Windows administration (69%); database management (64%); wireless network management (56%); telecommunications support (52%); virtualization (41%); business intelligence/reporting services (39%); Web development/Web site design (38%); enterprise resource planning implementation (31%); and other (5%). Respondents could choose more than one skill set.

The 2010 first quarter hiring plans of healthcare CIOs participating in the survey appear to support predictions from the U.S. labor department about ramped up demand for health IT talent over the next several years.

As hospitals and doctor offices nationwide roll out new e-health system in anticipation of more than $20 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal stimulus funding, the U.S. government predicts a shortage of about 51,000 qualified health IT professionals in the next five years.

To help alleviate the expected talent shortage, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in late November unveiled an $80 million program to help train new health IT workers.

The new workforce training program addresses skills in competencies in these health IT job categories: practice workflow and information management redesign specialists; clinician/practitioner consultants; implementation support specialists; implementation managers; technical/software support staff; and trainers.

The Robert Half Technology survey found healthcare CIOs are already having a tough time finding certain skilled talent in functional areas including data/database management (17%); help desk/technical support (12%); application development (9%); networking (9%); consulting/systems administration (9%); security (8%); software development (8%); Web development/design (5%); and other (3%).

"I do believe ARRA is the driving force, and that it will continue the need for IT [talent] in the healthcare segment," Manpower's Harlamert said.

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