D'Arcy Gue

The Healthcare IT Staffing Drought

May 28, 2014

IT Project Management, IT Service Desk 4 Minute Read

As we reported in a recent post, healthcare organizations are facing a new plague — a lack of qualified Healthcare IT resources is making a serious impact on the day to day operations at many hospitals. What’s the impact? 31 percent of CIOs report putting initiatives on hold because of staffing,  and according to a study performed by CSC there will be a shortfall of 51,000 healthcare IT industry professionals by the end of this year. 

healthcare it staffing droughtThis problem is worse in rural areas. A recent story on NPR details the challenges facing small rural hospitals, many of whom are pressured to partner with or be acquired by larger health systems in order to obtain the needed resources and expertise.

Why is there such a shortage in skilled Healthcare IT talent?

Some of the factors include:

New requirements force new systems and upgrades.

  • Meaningful Use / MIPS has ensured that almost every hospital in the country has implemented an electronic medical record and differences between the 2011 edition and 2014 edition standards has ensured that most facilities have started or completed at least one major upgrade.
  • ICD-10 has had a similar impact. The need to upgrade IT systems to handle the more complex ICD-10 codes has ensured that every facility has, or is in the process of, a major upgrade (or replacement) of at least one billing system, as well as all of the associated systems and interfaces that handle charge and diagnosis related data.

Healthcare IT isn’t sexy.

  • The top talent is drawn into pure technology firms, both for monetary rewards and career visibility, further thinning the talent pool. The best and brightest choose Facebook or Google before Community General Hospital.

Changing requirements.

As the pace of change in Healthcare IT quickens, many facilities are left with long-term employees who no longer have the relevant skill sets to be fully productive in today’s market. Today’s modern systems require a different skill set than the green screens of 20 years ago, and the fact that most modern systems feature fully integrated workflows, means that knowledge of the business operations is just as much a necessity as knowledge of the technology.

Possible Solutions

Train from within. Your existing staff can often be retrained in new technologies, and their history with your organization means that they probably have a better understanding of the business than most new hires would. The cost of good training can be expensive,  but given the $20,000+ finders fees that many recruiters are now getting for senior level staff, training can be a real bargain.

Staff augmentation firms. By providing a resource for a fixed period of time rather than execute a specific project, staff augmentation firms can provide key skill-sets to buttress your current staff, to execute specific parts of a project, or to backfill your current resources freeing them up for other work.

Consulting. In direct contrast to staff augmentation, consultants are generally hired to complete specific project tasks. These resources often appear expensive,  but well-chosen consultants who have experience are often significantly more productive than inexperienced resources. The knowledge set of an experienced consultant can help your projects avoid setbacks, particularly when implementing new systems, can be worth their weight in gold.

Outsourcing. By outsourcing one or more IT functions to a third party, hospitals can make the talent problem someone else’s. Hospitals may choose to outsource a position e.g. CIO, a single function such as desktop support or service desk, or even consider a total outsourcing, allowing the hospital to focus on what they do best – patient care – and allowing the outsourcer to focus on what they do best – IT.

Many hospitals already employ some form of outsourcing, by choosing their primary software vendor to host their key systems. This option avoids the need for expensive data centers as well as specialized staffing needed to support these complex systems. Because of the growing need to provide specialized support 24/7/365, the case for service desk outsourcing can be particularly compelling, and many hospitals find that freeing their analysts from service desk support calls dramatically improves other project performance as well.

Is your organization in a staffing drought? Phoenix can help. We specialize in healthcare consulting and IT outsourcing, and would be glad to sit down with you and evaluate your particular challenges and develop a strategy to meet them. Contact us.


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