Healthcare News & Insights

How your CIOs can handle IT staffing shortages

Due to a widespread staffing shortage, a lot of hospital CIOs are concentrating their energy on hiring and retaining top IT talent. Here’s what’s working for other CIOs. 

78744229After a long recession, the economy is finally starting to improve as more people find work again. Similarly, health care remains an active and growing industry, and is seeing a boom in health information technology.

Yet despite the growth others are seeing, hospital job growth has remained flat over the last few years, according to FierceHealthFinances. And the shortage has begun to affect hospital IT projects.

Dwindling staff

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the hospital industry lost 7,000 jobs in July, while other healthcare providers, like physician offices or home healthcare services, grew by about that much.

Even worse, in 2013 the hospital sector had a net job growth of zero, despite that health care as a whole grew by over  200,000 positions.

Hospital’s staffing troubles can largely be traced back to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Health reform led to a lot of budget and payment cuts for facilities. The ACA has also significantly impacted reimbursement — driving payors to switch to pay-for-performance models and emphasizing outpatient or homecare services over expensive inpatient options.

Similarly, cuts in Medicare payments and a growing number of facility mergers and acqusitions have forced hospitals to reduce their workforce in order to cut expenses.

Retaining IT talent

The staffing shortage is noticeably affecting hospitals’ ability to implement important IT projects, as Becker’s Hospital CIO reports. A recent survey from HIMSS shows that a third of healthcare organization have shelved at least one IT project due to lack of qualified staff.

This creates significant problems as healthcare organizations need a capable staff to help them develop effective health IT solutions — whether it be through big data analyses, developing mobile health use or successfully adopting electronic health record (EHR) systems.

As a result, your CIOs will have to increase their efforts to attract and retain top talent. Recently, three CIOs from healthcare organizations have shared how they manage to overcome staffing challenges:

  • Edith Dees, Vice President and CIO of Holy Spirit Health System, has managed the shortage by hiring new graduates with strong soft skills — particularly those who show a desire for continued learning and growth in a position. To attract these candidates, Dees’ facility offers industry and vendor certifications so the staff can continue to develop their skills. Another step that’s helped retain top employees, including details about what skills and experiences lead to promotions in job descriptions.
  • Mark Kilborn, CIO of Springhill Medical Center, relies on advertising his facility’s previous IT successes and staying on the cutting edge of health IT to attract candidates. This shows applicants the facility’s commitment to innovation. Kilborn also shows new recruits how other employees have risen through the ranks and developed successful, long-term careers there.
  • Nayan Patel, director of information technology at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, focuses on retaining the hospital’s IT talent by helping employees manage their time and projects. Doing so helps staff take time off and prevents burnout, which can quickly cause staff members to jump ship.

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