Why Your Next IT Job Will Be In Healthcare - InformationWeek

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Healthcare // Electronic Health Records

Why Your Next IT Job Will Be In Healthcare

Federal stimulus billions are fueling demand for up to 50,000 new information technology positions. Most sought after are tech pros with real-world implementation experience, Windows experts, and network admins.

Hospitals and medical practices are scrambling to deploy e-medical record and other clinical information systems to meet federal requirements for the more than $20 billion in stimulus incentives included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. And that means many of them are expanding their IT teams to bring in the skills and expertise they need to implement these systems.

In fact, National Coordinator of Health IT Dr. David Blumenthal recently predicted that the move toward digitized medical record systems could create 50,000 new healthcare IT jobs over the next several years.

Many of these jobs will require traditional IT skills as well as knowledge and experience working in clinical environments.

"This is the healthcare's one big shot, and they need to get it right," said Fran Turisco, a research principal at IT consulting firm CSC. It's not just the money that's creating the sense of urgency and the demand for talent, Turisco says, but also the need to meet the government's requirements that healthcare providers demonstrate "meaningful use" of these systems.

"There's demand for highly skilled IT talent in hospitals," she says, especially for people who have already deployed or worked with e-medical record and other clinical systems.

That's also opening opportunities for people with clinical IT backgrounds to work as independent contractors for hospitals and doctor offices, deploying new systems and tweaking existing ones to meet federal requirements.

"We're seeing a need for project managers and project leaders as the hospitals are ramping up," Turisco said. For hospitals that are migrating or consolidating older legacy systems into integrated EMR and clinical systems platforms, there are also shifts in labor. People who already have an understanding of an organization's workflow and processes are being redeployed to the new rollouts, creating openings for new people who can support the older systems during the transition. "If it's a matter of maintenance you can use people who don't have a lot of clinical experience," she said.

When it comes to deploying new EMR systems, some IT skills that aren't as much in need. "These systems are packages. There's no Java or C++ programming involved," Turisco said. But you do need to know the clinical vocabulary, she said. Instead, you need to understand the process that goes on in a hospital, like the data that's in an order record or a result record.

Jobs requiring less clinical experience include those focused on building interfaces, interoperability with medical devices, data sharing, messaging, and data standards as these new clinical systems get deployed.

Larger doctor practices and hospitals are expected to do most of the hiring. Lee Memorial Hospital, for example, is looking to hire about 30 to 40 IT professionals over the next couple of years as it launches a $70 million enterprise project to replace all its hospital systems with the rollout of new Epic electronic medical record system and other software.

"Right now we're aggressively hiring," said Randy Grams, the IT recruiter at the Fort Meyers, Fla., hospital. Lee Memorial is looking for project managers, systems analysts, and business analysts. "This is an Epic big bang project," that requires IT-related experience in ambulatory care, inpatient, and revenue-cycle environments, he said.

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