Experienced, educated workers flock to health IT retraining programs

Health industry values both clinical experience and IT expertise
Tools

One constant in various provisions of the Affordable Care Act being implemented over the next few years is that most will require expanding the nation's skilled health IT force, notes Bloomberg News.

The opportunities are attracting IT workers from other fields into healthcare-specific training programs, as well as experienced healthcare workers learning information-technology skills, according to the article. President Barack Obama's re-election is further fueling the retraining boom, Bloomberg says, by all-but guaranteeing the overhaul will become reality.

Stimulus funding drove the first big health IT boom by providing financial incentives for healthcare providers adopting electronic health records. Now, everything from state health insurance exchanges to the addition of 30 million more people to the ranks of the insured will increase those workforce needs, the article notes.

Some of the jobs will come as private contractors build the exchange infrastructure for states and help them manage the technology, according to the article.

Norma Morganti, executive director of the Midwest Community College Health Information Technology Consortium, says many of the new health IT students have more than 10 years of experience in either IT or healthcare. They're also highly educated: 17 percent have master's degrees and 39 percent have bachelor's degrees, she tells Bloomberg.

And they're in demand.  As the article pointed out, a survey conducted earlier this year by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives found that two-thirds of IT healthcare executives report difficulty in finding employees, up from 59 percent in 2010.

The greatest needs are for specialists who can implement and support clinical applications, including EHRs and computerized provider order entry, CHIME said in describing the survey results. Three-quarters said they need clinical software implementation and support staff.

Retention of skilled IT staff is another major issue for 85 percent of respondents, up from 76 percent in 2010.

"Even with two years of focused attention on implementing electronic health records at the nation's hospitals, in response to federal incentives, it's clear that staffing is a significant concern for IT executives," Randy McCleese, vice president of information systems and chief information officer at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, Ky., said in the announcement. "Staff needs aren't like to abate over the next couple years, as CIOs continue to push to achieve Meaningful Use targets and switch to ICD-10-compliant applications."

To learn more:
- check out the Bloomberg News article

Related Articles:
Health IT ROI hampered by staff shortages, limited data sources
Fierce Q&A: Vanderbilt University Medical Center CIO on health IT's staffing shortage
EHR training most sought-after skill in healthcare market
15 healthcare groups named among best IT employers