You know that multimillion dollar IT system — or systems — the hospital board just signed off on? Well, do you have an adequate staff to deploy the thing, or will you be calling in your teenager and his/her posse?
A vast majority — 67 percent — of CIOs responding to a recent CHIME survey said that they were experiencing workforce shortages. That's up from 59 percent just two years ago. While the shortages are somewhat small — 71 percent reported that fewer than 10 percent of IT staff positions are open — the CIOs expressed concern that the vacancies will negatively impact their ability to deploy enterprise IT systems.
"Even with two years of focused attention on implementing electronic health records at the nation's hospitals, in response to federal incentives, it's clear that staffing is a significant concern for IT executives," Randy McCleese, vice president of information systems and CIO at St. Claire Regional Medical Center, Morehead, Ky., and a CHIME board member, stated in a CHIME press release. "Staff needs aren't likely to abate over the next couple years, as CIOs continue to push to achieve meaningful use targets and switch to ICD-10-compliant applications."
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the biggest area of demand is on the clinical side, as identified by 74 percent of CIOs. "In terms of other types of job positions open, some 47 percent said they needed infrastructure staff, while 45 percent reported the need to fill business software implementation and support staff. Respondents were able to choose all answers that applied to their situations," CHIME noted in the survey results.
The shortage isn't necessarily new. As noted above, 59 percent of CIOs survey by CHIME in 2010 said they were experiencing shortages. In a 2010 cover story, we reported on the challenges hospitals would have meeting the insatiable appetite for health IT. Given the role that IT now plays in everything from patient safety to tracking quality measures to payment, it is no wonder that hospital C-suites are concerned about hiring and retaining qualified workers. The issue came up at HIMSS' annual meeting last February. In that group's leadership survey, 21 percent of respondents ranked "lack of staffing resources" as the top barrier to implementing IT. I spoke with Susan Heichert, senior vice president and CIO at Allina Hospitals & Clinics in Minneapolis, about it during the conference.
How are hospitals dealing with the shortages? Most — 28 percent — are hiring third-party consultants, according to the CHIME survey. Another 20 percent reported that they are hiring from elsewhere within the organization and retraining staff. Just 2 percent said that they are collaborating with local colleges and universities to develop a pipeline for pending graduates. Most of the CIOs surveyed also said that they were familiar with ONC's Health IT Workforce Development Program, which aims to build an army of health IT workers. However, only 12 percent said they have hired graduates from that program. ONC chief Farzad Mostashari, M.D., recently talked to me about his concerns around IT staffing and the ONC training program.
I'll be attending CHIME's Fall Forum next month and I'm sure that this will be a hot topic. Look for my blogs from the meeting Oct. 18 and Oct. 19. In the meantime, I'd like to know how your institution is addressing the staffing shortage. Drop me a note .