Will The Rush To Health IT Create Talent Shortages? - InformationWeek

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Will The Rush To Health IT Create Talent Shortages?

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal government is funding numerous new technical assistance centers to help doctors and hospitals deploy e-medical records systems. That should fill some support needs. But won't many doctors require more hand-holding and won't most hospitals need tech people working closely with clinicians on-site? Where will all this talent come from?

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal government is funding numerous new technical assistance centers to help doctors and hospitals deploy e-medical records systems. That should fill some support needs. But won't many doctors require more hand-holding and won't most hospitals need tech people working closely with clinicians on-site? Where will all this talent come from?The estimates vary depending on who's providing the figures, but it's safe to say that fewer than 20% of the nation's doctor offices and hospitals have deployed E-medical record systems. (In fact, some estimates have those percentages in the low single digits.)

So, the current pool of clinicians and IT people who have battled through these deployments and can effectively help others do it too, isn't very deep. Yet the competition for this talent will become fierce as these "regional extension centers" (as the feds are calling them) gear up--and as healthcare providers who can afford (or need) their own internal clinical IT/EMR teams try to hire these people, too.

On top of all that, health IT services providers and vendors are surely strategizing how to grow their armies of EMR consulting talent, too.

Thousands of hospitals and doctor offices (not to mention clinics and other healthcare facilities) will be racing to deploy EMR systems between now and 2014 if they hope to cash in on any of the $20 billion in rewards being allotted for the "meaningful use" of health IT. (Sooner or later, even the worse laggards will likely try jumping on the EMR bandwagon in order to avoid the financial penalties that start in 2015 for non-users of health IT.)

To assist healthcare providers in EMR deployments, the federal government is seeking applications right now from non-profit organizations that want to provide these regional center services. Among the requirements for applicants is being able to support a minimum of 1,000 "priority primary care providers" over the initial two years of the program.

Also, the number of healthcare providers served by the center must represent a minimum of 20% of the "priority primary care providers" in a region. "Priority primary care providers" include small doctor offices with fewer than 10 physicians, rural and community clinics, and public and critical access hospitals.

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services materials describe the purpose of the regional extension centers as "furnishing assistance, defined as education, outreach, and technical assistance, to help providers in their geographic service areas select, successfully implement, and meaningfully use certified EHR technology to improve the quality and value of health care."

Are you up to that job?

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on e-health and the federal stimulus package. Download the report here (registration required).

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