Interesting story by Jay Greene in Crain’s this week about IT professionals in the health care biz….
A shortage of highly specialized health care information-technology workers has led several health care systems to forge relationships with community colleges and universities to offer Health IT job training to nurses and medical technicians.
“We are finding it is challenging to find experienced IT workers to do electronic medical record (system implementation) or physician order entry in the hospital and ambulatory” settings, said Claudia Allen, chief information officer of St. John Providence Health System in Warren.
Subra Sripada, chief information officer at Royal Oak-based Beaumont Health System, said there are 15 openings in the system’s 300-person IT department.
“It is difficult to find the right mix of IT knowledge and clinical experience for these jobs,” Sripada said.
One reason for the shortages is the national effort to expand the use of electronic medical record systems to improve quality and drive down health care costs by improving care coordination and eliminating duplicative tests and procedures.
To increase the supply of workers, Beaumont and other health systems have been working with colleges to develop training and internship programs.
Sripada said Beaumont has internship program agreements with Kettering University in Flint and Macomb Community College, which has received a two-year federal grant to train more than 300 health care IT workers.
Macomb is part of the Midwest Community College Health Information Technology Consortium, a group of 17 community colleges that wants to train 2,700 health care IT professionals each year, said Carol Hall, Macomb’s health care IT grant administrator. Wayne County Community College District also is in the collaborative.
“About 60 percent of our students are health care professionals coming back to augment their skills with IT,” said Hall, a former chief information officer in higher education.
Hall said MCC, WCCC and others have been working on health care IT curricula and helping hospitals develop job descriptions for health care IT workers.
“They didn’t know what the work force looked like two months ago, and they had plenty of IT projects on their plate,” Hall said. “It will take a long time to develop enough trained health care specialists to meet the demand.”
Michael Sappington, president of Bloomfield Hills-based gloStream, an EMR vendor and consulting company, said shortages of health care IT workers will slow electronic medical record implementation.
“As health care continues to transform and there’s more of a need for individuals who have both medical and IT expertise, we are seeing a greater number of educational institutions offer health IT specialization programs,” Sappington said.
Other colleges that offer new health care IT programs include Davenport University in Livonia, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Oakland University and Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn.
Beaumont also will begin this summer offering nurses and medical technicians job training opportunities.
“We are starting to offer that to our employees, not as programmers but as functional experts,” Sripada said.
At Oakwood Healthcare, Paula Smith, chief information officer, said about 40 of the 80 health care IT employees who are installing its EMR system were formerly nurses and clinical staffers who received training by Epic Systems Corp., a Verona, Wis.-based information technology company.
“Practice managers, nurses and assistants who have worked in a clinic setting and have experience using medical systems such as EMRs are now the best candidates for companies like ours who are actively hiring trainers and implementation specialists,” Sappington said.
The average starting salary for a health care IT worker is about $61,000, according to Simply Hired, a jobs listing search engine.
St. John also is working with the Michigan Center for Effective IT Adoption, or M-CEITA, to help private practice physicians install EMRs and transform their offices, Allen said. M-CEITA is a private-public partnership funded by a $20 million grant from Ann Arbor-based Altarum Institute.
While health system executives say the shortage has not seriously impacted their pace of installing EMRs, especially in physician offices, most acknowledge they would like to move faster.
“Some health systems have underestimated the time and effort it takes to implement the system in physician offices,” Sappington said. “It is very difficult to find very specific expertise to do health care IT, especially with a national shortage of health care IT expertise.”
Tony Colarossi, partner for health care consulting with Southfield-based Plante Moran Financial Advisors, said hospitals, consulting firms and information-technology vendors are finding it hard to recruit IT workers who have clinical experience.
“You are in high demand if you are an IT person who specializes in health care,” he said. “Hospitals and vendors lack the ability to bring on the resources they need to install and support these systems. It is a huge problem.”
In Southeast Michigan, Beaumont, St. John Providence, Oakwood Healthcare and CareTech Solutions, a Troy-based health care IT company, report they have more than 75 openings for highly specialized health care IT workers with clinical backgrounds.
Officials for Detroit Medical Center declined to be interviewed on IT staffing shortages, but in a statement Chief Information Officer Michael LeRoy said the health system is not experiencing a shortage.
Sripada said the shortage of health care IT workers is causing a bidding war for top talent in metropolitan Detroit.
“There is poaching going on, and it has turned into a bidding war,” Sripada said. “We are all trying to hang onto our people the best we can.”
While Oakwood only has three openings in its 200-plus IT department, Smith acknowledged that some health systems and hospitals are losing health care IT workers to higher bidders.
“Some people are willing to (leave for another job) to get a step increase,” Smith said. “They are saying, “Can you match it … and I won’t leave.’ ”
Smith said Oakwood doesn’t have that problem because “most of our (health care IT staff) are CareTech employees and they had to sign a noncompete. I can’t offer them employment without getting prior approval.”
Given the current shortage, Sappington said it will be challenging to meet the nation’s goals of converting to EMRs in five years.
In a survey last fall of hospital chief information officers, more than 60 percent said shortages of health care IT workers — estimated at 50,000 nationally — will “definitely or possibly affect their chances to achieve meaningful use,” according to Ann Arbor-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.
Under the 2009 federal stimulus bill, hospitals and physicians are eligible to receive up to $64,000 over five years from Medicare and Medicaid if they show they are meaningfully using certified EMRs by 2015.
Sripada said the worker shortage has created a list of doctors waiting to have their EMR systems installed.
“We have more doctors who want to have Epic installed in their offices, but we don’t have the staff to complete the job,” Sripada said.
Of the 2,309 private physicians and 632 employed physicians on Beaumont’s three hospital medical staffs, about 650 use the hospital’s Epic EMR system, Sripada said.
Sripada estimates that another 1,200 private physicians are in the market for an EMR.
Over time, as Beaumont increases the number of physicians who want the health system’s Epic EMR system, Beaumont will need to hire additional IT workers, Sripada said.
For every 50 physicians who choose Epic through Beaumont, the system needs to hire one additional IT person to support the physicians, Sripada said.
“Once we have more physicians (using EMRs), the support requirements will be sky high and we will need more people,” Sripada said.
Kim Whitman, vice president of human resources at CareTech, said the company has 40 health care IT open positions at any one time, including 30 in Southeast Michigan.
CareTech employs about 700 health care IT workers in Michigan and another 400 in other parts of the country, Whitman said.
“It is somewhat of a hard environment out there to find the right set of skills,” Whitman said, adding it takes three to four months to hire a health care IT worker.
Oakwood Healthcare System..www.facebook.com(Source)