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Health-care firms are still having problems finding IT staff.
May 9, 2002
Nurses aren't the only people in short supply in the health-care industry. Despite spotty IT unemployment, health-care companies still are having a hard time finding the IT people they need, according to Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. The consulting firm surveyed 45 senior execs at small rural hospitals, not-for-profit hospitals, and large teaching facilities to size up the market.
People with health-care application expertise are among the most difficult to find, says Lewis Redd, Cap Gemini's national health practice leader. And when positions are finally filled, many of the people are lured away by other companies. Systems integration, clinical-systems support, and Web-enabled app development are some of the most sought-after skills, Redd says. Hospitals are struggling with smaller reimbursements from federal and state health programs, regulatory deadlines related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountably Act, and an aging population that's changing service needs.Consolidation among hospitals as they tackle these problems has created a hodgepodge of disparate clinical and other systems that health-care companies must integrate. Meanwhile, the trend among hospitals is to pursue "more holistic" IT projects designed to help cut costs, increase revenue, and improve quality of care, Redd says.Of course, not all health-care CIOs face shortages. John Halamka, CIO at CareGroup Health Systems, which operates six Boston-area hospitals, says he's blessed by an array of IT talent resources in the city, including "37,000 [college] students and the death of dot-coms." Halamka says the average tenure of a software developer in his IT organization is 15 years. His staff turnover is 2%. At the height of the IT-skills shortage in the late 1990s, many IT organizations in a variety of industries had double-digit turnover. Cap Gemini says many hospitals are outsourcing their IT functions rather than fighting to find and keep talented people. Halamka, who recently attended a national hospital conference in Hilton Head, S.C., agreed that many of his peers outside the Northeast and Northwest say they frequently outsource or buy vendor software packages because of the difficulty in recruiting and retaining IT talent.
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