As an established IT recruiting and staffing firm, we have seen a dramatic increase in job openings from companies spanning the health care industry supply chain. We have assisted medical suppliers, assisted living facilities, long term care organizations and traditional hospitals in finding IT professionals that are the right fit for their organizations.
But what is causing this dramatic increase?
In 2009, the U.S. government passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, part of which was the HITECH Act. This Act created the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs to promote the adoption of EHRs in support of improving the quality of patient care and reducing health costs. This act set aside money for healthcare providers who successfully demonstrate the transference of their patients’ medical records from paper to digital storage systems. Eligible hospitals and doctors can earn incentives by demonstrating “meaningful use” of certified technology in ways that improve healthcare and lower costs.
In addition to providing incentive payments for meaningful use of electronic health records, the HITECH Act called for the development of a properly trained health IT workforce. With healthcare providers working to implement electronic health records by 2015 to qualify for meaningful use incentive payments, there is a huge demand for health IT professionals. In fact, many U.S. healthcare companies report that they are struggling to attract and retain experienced information technology workers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 50,000 health IT-related jobs have been created since HITECH was enacted. As of February 2013, the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs have paid $12.6 billion in incentives to hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Despite billions of dollars spent investing in health IT, the lack of qualified professionals could slow progress toward quality and efficiency.
A recent survey released by Towers Watson, a global professional services company that surveyed 102 U.S. healthcare provider organizations in February 2013, found that hospitals and other healthcare organizations are struggling to attract and retain experienced health IT workers. The survey found that 67% of respondents reported difficulty attracting experienced IT workers, while 38% reported concerns about retaining such workers.
With the healthcare industry’s current talent shortage, healthcare organizations are seeking strategies to attract and retain health IT workers. Successful IT recruiting in the healthcare industry is a matter of striking the right balance between the needs of IT professionals today and the longer-term goal of helping the industry transform itself. Employers will need to have a comprehensive a program that includes increasing base pay rates, offering retention bonuses while giving workers more training and career advancement opportunities.
The federal government set 2015 as the year in which healthcare providers must come into compliance with the act and healthcare organizations are scrambling to meet federal mandates. The health IT field is in the early stages of implementation and achieving large-scale health system performance improvement will require a skilled workforce not only in vendor facilities but also in clinics, physician offices and hospitals. With the U.S. unemployment rate hovering around 9%, health IT is an area full of job opportunities. The future looks bright for those with IT and healthcare experience and knowledge.