Healthcare News & Insights

Report: These groups struggle to find health IT employees

It isn’t just hospitals switching to electronic health records that have created a big demand for health IT employees. New health information exchange initiatives are also creating a lot of health IT jobs. 

Many health information exchanges (HIEs) are understaffed and are having trouble finding qualified health IT employees, according to a recent report from the eHealth Initiative.

Most HIEs have small staffs, with a majority of those surveyed employing five or fewer full-time employees dedicated to the initiative. However, they’re also struggling to find qualified employees for health IT jobs — of 196 HIEs that responded to the survey, 37 said they have one or two positions to fill, along with 21 with three or more vacancies.

The reason so many of those health IT jobs are open: HIEs are having trouble finding candidates with the right IT experience. More than 25% of those surveyed said they’re short on staff with IT skills.

At a typical HIE, the candidates most in demand are those that can handle clinical implementation and support, according to the eHealth Initiative. That includes jobs such as:

  1. project managers
  2. analysts
  3. application coordinators
  4. report writers
  5. trainers
  6. informatics staff, and
  7. technical writers.

Due to difficulty finding qualified candidates, many HIEs are turning to consultants and contractors, with 62% of HIEs reporting a staffing shortage saying they planned to hire consultants.

To help prevent staffing shortages for health IT jobs, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) created the Health IT Workforce Development Program. The program offers training programs in healthcare technology at select academic institutions.

However, HIEs have yet to start using those programs as a pool for candidates, with just 15% saying they plan to hire a graduate from an ONC program, including only 28% of HIEs that reported a staffing shortage.

For organizations with trouble finding qualified candidates for health IT jobs, the eHealth Initiative recommends using the ONC training programs as a source for employees. Also, the report suggests organizations offer their own training to close skills gaps with current employees.

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  1. I think it’s great that ONC is encouiraging the training of IT personnel to support the medical field. That said, why the fixation with hiring internal staff when outsourcing has already become the industry norm and the number of IT Service firms is growing? For most small to medium-sized organizations it is simply not cost-effective to even attempt to hire ONE IT specialist to handle all of their technology needs (network solutions, hardware integration, database maitenance and backup, data security, etc.). These areas have only grown in importance, sophistication and complexity. They would be cost prohibitive for many HIEs to utilize not only the latest, but better, software and hardware if they could outsource their IT support. Fortunately, they can.