Healthcare News & Insights

How to creatively address the healthcare IT staffing shortage

Keeping good, qualified IT people is hard in today’s healthcare environment. But it’s extremely important for the success of any hospital. In this guest post, Gary Palgon, VP of healthcare and life sciences solutions at a company that provides integration and data management solutions, offers creative strategies for addressing the healthcare IT staffing shortage.

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Healthcare organizations in the U.S. face severe staffing shortages. By 2020, health systems will be unable to fill nearly 200,000 nursing positions as supply outstrips demand, according to a Georgetown University report. As the population ages, fewer physicians will be available to handle the demand for medical services. The Association of American Medical Colleges projects that by 2030, the physician shortfall may top 100,000. Healthcare Information Technology staffing shortages get less attention, but they’re acute as well, with 43% of health organizations reporting IT vacancies, according to a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society report.

It’s a vicious cycle for healthcare IT leaders, who invest time and money finding, hiring and training qualified IT professionals, only to lose them to competitors, who entice employees to leave for new positions that pay higher salaries and/or offer additional benefits and perks. It’s never a good time to lose qualified IT people, but as data and technology become increasingly central to health organization success, it’s an especially bad time to be short staffed in the IT department. And the loss of qualified staff affects those who remain, increasing their workloads and hurting morale.

Integrate & harmonize data

As technologies like the Internet of Things (IOT), artificial intelligence (AI)-powered applications, mobile health devices and machine learning become more widely used in healthcare, they yield valuable data and open new opportunities to analyze this data to improve efficiency and drive innovation in patient care and administration. But emerging technologies also create a more pressing need to integrate and harmonize data to unlock its value. And multiplying security concerns and privacy regulation compliance requirements add to the IT workload even more. That can lead to burnout among already overworked IT personnel.

It’s a tough dilemma for talented, hardworking IT professionals. They understand what needs to be done, but too many lack the time and tools to efficiently handle data integration and management-related tasks, so the work piles up. As a result, projects for in-house customers may be delayed, or data scientists end up spending their precious time on cleaning up data as opposed to analyzing it, both of which add to the stress. And that makes health system IT professionals especially receptive to job offers from competing organizations. When these professionals accept new opportunities elsewhere, the cycle of finding, hiring and training IT personnel starts again for the health system IT manager or senior executive.

Health IT system management must find a way to break this cycle. They must get creative to address the healthcare IT shortage and that doesn’t simply mean using less-expensive overseas resources. Looking to how IT leaders have managed challenges related to past technology evolutions may provide insight on how to tackle the present dilemma. For example, with the advent of cloud computing and offsite data storage, businesses saw an opportunity to stop investing in hardware assets and maintenance, partnering with vendors to access scalable infrastructure.

When those companies outsourced infrastructure, the arrangement not only freed in-house IT from the expense and hassle of purchasing and maintaining their own hardware, it allowed IT professionals to focus on more strategic tasks that supported the companies’ core mission. Untold efficiency savings and innovation followed as IT’s creativity and talent were redirected to activities that enabled their companies to transform operations and disrupt industries. A similar opportunity exists today as organizations form partnerships with vendors that specialize in data integration and management.

Healthcare partners

Today, health system IT executives can work with a data integration and management vendor to access a platform to harmonize data from virtually any source and apply expertise under a managed services business model. With the right partner, healthcare IT can gain consistent access to high quality data on a scalable architecture, with offsite IT resources expertly handling the integration and management work, including data privacy and security compliance tasks. And rather than spending scarce budget dollars on capital outlay for integration infrastructure, IT leaders can access managed services on a subscription basis.

The pressures on IT aren’t going away. New data privacy and security regulations will require attention, and new data security threats will emerge. AI, machine learning and other advances will continue to impact the healthcare industry – and produce data that can drive greater efficiency and innovation, and improve patient care if it can be harnessed in the right way. And the shortage of experienced IT personnel will continue to affect the healthcare field, making it more difficult for health systems to find and retain talented people.

For all these reasons, IT leaders who work for healthcare organizations will need to find new solutions to their staffing shortage problem. Working with a vendor that provides an advanced, future-proof data integration platform and a managed services approach to delivering data integration and management expertise can be a game-changer. Not only is it a creative solution to a persistent problem, it unleashes the creativity and talent of the in-house IT team. And that can inspire healthcare IT breakthroughs.

Gary Palgon is VP of healthcare and life sciences solutions at Liaison Technologies, a company that provides integration and data management solutions to help customers unlock the power of a data-centric approach to their business, and brings two decades of product management, sales, and marketing experience to his role.

 

 

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