Tech skills a big part of HIE hiring needs

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Health information exchanges share a lot in common with startup businesses, with staff required to wear a lot of hats and bring a diverse set of skills to the table. It also requires workers comfortable, to some extent, with making it work as they go along amid a tenuous financial environment.

While plenty of attention has been focused on the governance, business models, policies, standards and technical infrastructure required for long-term sustainability, there's been less focus on the staffing of HIEs.

To shed some light on the work force require, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) formed a collaborative workgroup to analyze job opportunities and skill sets required.

Their study of job openings along with a survey of 35 exchange organizations illustrates how these entities share similarities with more established organizations and how they differ.

Most of those participating were organizations with 10 or fewer employees. Many employ both full-time and part-time staff, employees who job-share, on-site contractors and outsourced positions.

The study found three roles of particular importance:

  • Health information management and exchange specialists
  • Health information privacy and security specialists
  • Programmers and software engineers

Interestingly enough it found what it called a "noticeable lack" of current hiring and planned hiring for security-related roles, though the report says that's expected to pick up as the organizations mature. One of the most talked about changes to the HIPAA legislation holds business associates and subcontractors who work with covered entities accountable for the privacy and security of personal health information, but FierceHealthIT reported previously that HIEs are expected to be making additional efforts to ensure compliance.

The most common current and planned technology positions were in help desk/support, software application support and data integration. Overall data integration, executive management and master patient/client index (MPI) roles were identified as most difficult to fill.

A majority of positions overall were at a bachelor's-degree level and 84 percent of positions paid less than $90,000.  The majority of technology positions paid in the range of $75,000 to $89,999. Only one organization reported a salary greater than $150,000, which was believed to be a senior management role.

Among its recommendations for hiring were to use available resources from the two organizations and others to fully understand the education and training required for the roles and to use professional networks as well as Facebook and Twitter to find suitable candidates.

The report notes an emerging trend of hiring and placing interns and new graduates from the HITECH Workforce Development Consortiums. While those training programs reportedly have experienced a rush of applicants, a survey last fall from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) found only a minority of hospitals hiring from them.

To learn more:
- find the report

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