Feb 02 2017

3 Factors to Consider When Growing Your Health IT Workforce

Continued strategic investment in skilled staff is necessary to ensure technology keeps pace in the healthcare industry.

Of the many strategic efforts that healthcare organizations seek to mature — patient engagement, population health, personalized medicine and more — people and IT are the common ingredients for most.

Healthcare IT individuals represent a specialized workforce; a blend of ­clinical, technical and workflow skill sets that deliver systems to advance care. Continued, intentional investment in this workforce is not only smart, but a necessity in today’s terrain to keep pace with other healthcare organizations in the market.

Regulations Set the Stage

The agency, state and federal regulations that directly link to healthcare technology have swelled. The landmark American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 identified workforce development as an area of need.

We will continue to see additional demands with the implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which establishes new, more value-focused efforts to pay physicians caring for Medicare beneficiaries. Secure infrastructure; robust, electronic quality reporting; advanced data exchange; and seasoned patient tools will describe much of the work completed in 2017 for our industry.

Factors impacting these decisions can be summarized into three distinct categories: cost, quality and supply volume. When considering the right organizational fit, equal attention must be paid to all three.

Highly desired workers maintain ­specialized skill sets, provide invaluable expertise on workflows, follow emerging technology trends and display business acumen. Individuals may not only demand a competitive salary but expect benefits and perks such as remote work, on-call pay or flexible work schedules.

Those have now become almost expected and common across health IT. For organizations, evaluation of internal benefits, policies and procedures are a worthwhile first step.

Partnering with human resources to conduct frequent job market assessments allows an organization to be fluent and aware of their pay practices.

Consistent investment with market trends is crucial; organizations must take time to understand the overall impact that may have on recruitment and retention efforts.

What’s more, turnover is real; an estimated $30,000 to $120,000 could easily be the cost of a departure of a midlevel application analyst, programmer or system administrator.

Elements in this equation include recruitment services, relocation, lost productivity, training and service continuity. It is not uncommon to have a health IT role vacant for three to six months, leaving considerable work to the team during that gap. In 2011, HIMSS conducted a workforce survey of its member organizations. It found that the overwhelming sentiment was that there was a lack of trained IT professionals, particularly those focused on ­implementation and clinical informatics, to handle future workloads.

That perception has only intensified over time and continues to be a challenge for many organizations.

Entities must identify and implement skill development programs, assess staff and identify short- and long-term goals.

Continuing education, vendor certifications, cross-training and even lunch-and-learns all represent ways that you can drive knowledge within your workforce, as well as demonstrate the value placed on a strong, knowledgeable team.

Even with the most competitive pay and robust employee programs — on top of regulations driving increased need for considerable investments — the market continues to encounter several shortages.

Supply Volume Lags

While many skill sets have changed in the past few years, some have not. Project management, data­­­­base management, application development, and compliance and regulatory awareness continue to be areas of demand for every IT roadmap.

The ever-changing healthcare environment, paired with technology demands, necessitates a workforce management strategy that is evaluated and updated frequently.

Organizations cannot afford to fall behind the curve. Doing so could prove costly.


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