In an annual report called IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks 2011/2012, Computer Economics, an IT research and advisory firm, reveals that 61 percent of health care organizations are increasing IT staff head counts in 2011.
Computer Economics conducts the study to give key metrics to IT managers to help them with organizing finance and strategy. It studies IT spending and staffing levels, outsourcing use and the degree of adoption of best practices by IT managers.
For the August 2011 survey, the firm interviewed 200 IT executives during the first quarter of 2011. In addition to health care, other sectors the firm looked at include energy and utilities, food and beverage, and government.
Of the 26 health care respondents in the survey, they included hospitals, pathology labs, nursing homes and medical practice groups.
IT departments are adding jobs at the "peripheries" overall, yet health care did show progress in adding IT positions, according to John Longwell, vice president of research for Computer Economics.
"There isn't a lot of hiring going on, but health care seems to be one of those areas," Longwell told eWEEK. "Health care is the only sector that showed a fairly substantial 3.6 percent increase."
Only 17 percent of health care providers will decrease staff, Computer Economics reports.
Meanwhile, health care IT jobs will grow by 20 percent annually by 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Health care IT leads the market in hiring with about 176,090 jobs existing in IT nationwide, the bureau reports.
"Certainly in health care, you've seen a lot of spending on patient medical records and on using the wireless to push the medical records out to notebooks and tablets and so forth," Longwell said.
The HITECH Act and the stimulus money now being awarded for meaningful use of EHRs is a major reason for a demand for health care IT jobs, according to Rick Kneipper, chief strategy and innovation officer for Anthelio Healthcare Solutions. Anthelio is a Dallas-based provider of health care IT services.
"It's a paradoxical fact that more sophisticated EMRs [electronic medical records]-which are supposed to make everything electronic and make it go faster, cheaper-really require significantly more, not less IT support," Kneipper told eWEEK. "It's going to take more people to run because they're very complex."
In fact, finding qualified EHR experts is difficult, he said.
With the health care IT job market growing, CompTIA, a nonprofit trade association for the IT industry, recently announced it will award a health care IT credential to professionals who complete training on how to install and manage EHR (electronic health record) platforms.
Now that funds are being awarded for implementation of EHRs, a real motivation exists to spend the necessary money on resources to build these services, Kneipper said.
"Some don't believe the government when it says it will give out free money," he said.
In addition, with health care facilities now required to use the ICD-10 diagnostic codes for medical claims, this change will create a rush for new jobs by the fall or winter, Kneipper predicted.
"If you're an IT expert, jobs are going up now driven by EMRs, but I think they're going to go up even more driven by ICD-10," Kneipper said. Companies such as VitalWare offer software to help companies adhere to the ICD-10 codes.
"It's one sector that tends to be a bit recession-proof," Longwell said. "Health care tends to stand out when everything else is kind of in the tank."