Don't discount applicants during health IT talent shortage

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In the IT job market, stories abound of employers seeking job candidates with five or more years of experience with a given technology, when the technology has been out for only four years. Or a highly specialized startup might require software engineers to have previously used its APIs O'Reilly Radar reported.

Writer Mike Loukides questions whether the common recruiting strategy in which companies seek too narrowly focused technical skills and may not find candidates. Of course, companies would like to find the candidate whose skills and experience fit exactly those of the open position, but too often companies don't really know what they need, so they throw the whole kitchen sink of tech skills into job descriptions to cover all the bases. The increasing use of technology to parse resumes means many job candidates never get to make a case for their skill match.

Yet, 70 percent of health insurers and 48 percent of providers said they expect to increase technical staff, according to a recent PwC informatics report and survey, and 40 percent expressed concern about finding the talent to fill those positions.

The industry struggles to find talent because many of the technologies are so new. Job seekers with experience with products from Epic, Cerner, Meditech or any of the other EHR vendors, however, can pretty much write their own ticket, but there are too few of those people available.

The rise of Big Data to collect and analyze the data to demonstrate the quality improvement required of accountable care organizations will increasingly require workers with skills in networking, data warehousing and integration--skills not unique to healthcare. Insisting on healthcare experience in those roles especially may not be the best approach.

Meanwhile, six of the fastest-growing job titles in healthcare informatics are related to clinical documentation and analysis, positions that stress clinical experience or an advanced degree, according to a recent report on the health informatics job market released by Credentials that Work, an initiative that helps colleges match their offerings to job demand.

But what about folks without experience who are trying to break into the field? Responding to demand, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Labor recently announced an additional initiative to train people who would provide health IT in rural areas.

Yet, students from the short-term community college programs funded by the Office of the National Coordinator have struggled to find work because the industry places so much importance on experience.

So something's got to give if the U.S. is to expand its workforce in healthcare IT, and that calls for creativity. Cook Children's Health Care System in Texas, for example, places experienced employees, mid-term workers and new hires on a team to help those who have technical training but lack hands-on experience get up to speed more quickly.

Similarly, Stoltenberg Consulting in Bethel Park, Pa., pairs a junior consultant with a seasoned pro on health IT projects to learn project management principles, hospital workflow, clinical transformation and vendor-specific technology, EHR Intelligence reported.

To learn more:
- read the O'Reilly Radar article
- read the EHR Intelligence article

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