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Healthcare IT Hiring: No Summer Doldrums

Healthcare organizations outpace the overall economy in hiring.

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Economic recovery might be slow, but demand for healthcare IT professionals continues to grow as organizations seek technology expertise across a spectrum of specialties and responsibilities.

Overall technology jobs increased 10% in June 2014 compared with 12 months ago; healthcare jobs grew 13% in the same period, reported. Fifty-four percent of healthcare organizations plan to hire more full-time employees, compared with 51% last year, according to CareerBuilder's Midyear Job Forecast. Within IT, 59% are recruiting full-time workers, up from 51% in 2013, the study said.

"The federal requirements leading to reimbursement incentives for Meaningful Use of electronic health records is undoubtedly one driver: many institutions need help with selection and implementation and training," Karen Patena, clinical associate professor and director of Health Information Management Programs at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said in an interview. "Also, the emphasis on information governance -- the need for data integrity, and privacy and security of data and information -- [is] driving jobs."

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IT and technical managers/project managers, systems analysts, analysts, and healthcare informatics experts are most sought out, according to HIMSS Jobmine. The median salary for a hospital project manager is $68,331; health system analyst paychecks range between $45,760 and $72,7999. Healthcare analysts earn from $50,000 to $80,000, and medical informatics professionals take home about $87,000 to $104,000.

Most healthcare IT employees -- whether full-time or contract -- are satisfied with their current jobs, including salaries, a Healthcare IT Leaders study determined. Consultants and other contract HIT experts are more satisfied than their full-time counterparts: 64% of on-staff professionals were satisfied or very satisfied, compared with 77% of consultants, the report said. Among full-time employees, 29% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their existing positions, whereas only 11% of consultants voiced these sentiments.

But organizations can lure these experienced HIT professionals from their current jobs. Both groups would change jobs for better pay and more advancement opportunities, but full-time workers also cited enhanced work-life balance, more learning opportunities, and better benefits while consultants ranked chances to learn, improved benefits, and location issues, such as commuting or office site, as additional motivators.

(Source: UIC Health Informatics Online, University of Illinois, Chicago)
(Source: UIC Health Informatics Online, University of Illinois, Chicago)

"On the one hand, the majority of HIT professionals are relatively satisfied in their jobs. But they also clearly told us that, under the right circumstances, they are open to new opportunities. In fact, only 10% said they wouldn’t change jobs -- meaning the rest are either actively job seeking or are passive candidates who could be swayed to switch jobs," said Brad Elster, president of Healthcare IT Leaders, in an interview. "We also know some current consultants are ripe for a lifestyle change. In fact, 13% said they were ‘very likely’ to seek a [full-time employee] role in the coming year. There are definitely candidates in the market, but it’s competitive, and employers have to offer a compelling package."

Healthcare organizations that want to retain their IT talent must be attentive to employees, understand their motivations, and consider benefits such as allowing IT staff to work from home once a week or attend industry conferences and classes, Elster said.

IT professionals in less robust markets can segue into healthcare, experts agreed, especially now that more organizations are expanding beyond simply implementing electronic health records. Now healthcare organizations are investing more heavily in big data and analytics, sensors and Internet of Things devices, security and networking, plus mobile and enterprise resource planning -- and that provides IT pros from other fields with an opportunity to enter healthcare, said Elster.

"Our advice for IT professionals is to market their strengths in these growth areas, while also showing a willingness to do additional training as needed to brush up on HIT-specific skills," he noted.

For example, IT staff can pursue a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) or Certified Professional in Healthcare Information & Management Systems (CHHIMS) certification, or additional education specifically focused on healthcare informatics, health information management (HIM), or another sought-after specialty, said Patina.

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Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio

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