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Hiring For The New World Of Healthcare IT

The politics of healthcare IT are not getting any easier. What are the top three attributes your IT team members will need?

Leaders of healthcare organizations are starting to view IT as integral to (rather than adjacent to) their success. While the benefits of Meaningful Use are still being debated, there are many other areas where value is achieved through technology. It's clear that an IT workforce is imperative to succeeding in this post-Affordable Care Act world, but it takes a shift in all aspects of running the IT function to achieve success.

One of those shifts is in the way we approach hiring and developing talent. While my first article for InformationWeek highlighted broad concepts for hiring healthcare IT, the following are what I believe to be the top three attributes your IT team members will need:

Motivator
The people on your team should be passionate about improving healthcare, and their passion should be infectious. I cannot reiterate this enough. With ever-changing government requirements and more pressure on margins, the politics of healthcare IT are not getting any easier. You must find people who believe so strongly in the mission and values of your organization that they are not only able to weather this storm, but are actually motivated by it.

[These seven questions can help you solve the IT spending puzzle: How Much Should Healthcare Organizations Spend On IT?]

Beyond a passion for the work and for the organization, you want individuals who are driven by the potential of what the industry can be. Healthcare is one of the few industries that affects each one of us personally. Your most passionate staff are those who see the potential for improvement and who understand the struggles of patients and those of the people who interact with them. This type of energy will drive them to persuade your organization's leaders to make decisions that will improve how care is delivered across your organization.

Translator
As IT becomes a more integral aspect of delivering healthcare it truly becomes an operational service line. If your organization has set up clear IT governance that reflects patient needs, then there is operational leadership and oversight for IT (read: patient care) decision-making. With this model in mind, your IT team members provide solid cost-benefit analyses and the right data for operational leaders to make informed decisions.

The translator understands stakeholder needs and can align those with the available resources. Often IT is stuck between a rock (the end-user suggesting change) and a hard place (the overarching goals of the organization). The right IT team member knows how to empathetically listen, determine the root cause of the problem, and use the information gathered to devise a workable solution. Further, this individual knows how to redirect requests to the right governance structure rather than perpetuate system work-arounds. The ability to speak the language of all stakeholders while supporting the governance structure will create pathways for positive change. Ultimately, viewing your end-user as the hub of innovation and leveraging your IT team to make that magic happen is the path to true transformation.

Integrator
Organizations are moving to more integrated product suites. Think of them like plumbing in your house -- all the water uses the same water heater, so when you wash dishes, someone taking a shower may experience a rude awakening. The people on your team need to be curious about how everything is integrated and how it all works together. This means they should be trained in multiple systems so when they make a change they will not create unwelcome surprises.

As healthcare becomes more focused on team- and value-based care, so should healthcare IT. This means hiring people who excel at working with others and who are interested in improving efficiency along the way. The movement to Accountable Care Organizations will also require more tightly knit integration between clinical and financial data. This will be the most difficult task healthcare IT has yet faced, as our work has historically fit neatly into silos. Now our IT teams will need to comprise people who are interested in breaking down barriers, not building them.

As healthcare transforms, the workforce must transform with it. Healthcare IT can lead the way because innovation naturally lives within our walls, hearts, and minds. Consider the qualities highlighted in this article as you envision your future healthcare team, and start assessing how your current IT team measures up. Facing an uncertain future is outside of our control, but hiring the right people to thrive within that uncertainty is a surmountable challenge -- and a necessary one.

Has meeting regulatory requirements gone from high priority to the only priority for healthcare IT? Read Health IT Priorities: No Breathing Room, an InformationWeek Healthcare digital issue.