Health IT Sees Robust Hiring Despite Shortage of Skilled Applicants

Staffing will increase in 2013 for 79 percent of health care organizations, revealed a HIMSS Analytics report.

Hiring is on the rise in health care IT, according to a report by HIMSS Analytics, a nonprofit subsidiary of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

More than 85 percent of 224 executives from health care firms and IT vendors reported that their organization hired at least one employee in 2012, HIMSS Analytics revealed in its July 11 Workforce Survey.

IT vendors were more active in hiring health care IT workers than medical providers, the report stated.

In addition, only 13 percent of respondents laid off workers in 2012, and 79 percent of health care organizations will hire more staff this year.

With the rise in hiring come reports that health care organizations are struggling to find qualified workers in the industry. The need to properly train new hires could delay implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), according to an earlier survey that HIMSS Analytics and workforce-planning company TEKsystems released on March 5.

"As health care organizations become increasingly sophisticated with their IT initiatives, human resource leaders are experiencing a new set of hiring challenges," Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of research for HIMSS Analytics, said in a statement.

"The No. 1 barrier to implementing IT systems in hospitals is the lack of qualified resources," said Eric Born, managing director of staffing firm Medix IT, which sponsored the survey.

Born was encouraged to see hiring rise despite staffing challenges for IT projects.

The HIMSS survey was carried out to to show how organizations should invest in health IT professional development programs, according to JoAnn W. Klinedinst, vice president of professional development for HIMSS.

"We hope this report will show employers that investing in health IT professional development programs is essential to the successful execution of IT initiatives that can improve health care delivery for patients," Klinedinst said in a statement.

A lack of qualified workers could delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act by health care organizations, according to a March 12 report by PwC's Health Research Institute.

Still, despite a lack of skilled workers, the health care industry should move forward with IT initiatives such as satisfying the federal government's meaningful-use objectives on EHRs or converting medical claim software to ICD-10, the latest International Classification of Diseases code set, Klinedinst said.

"As the health care industry continues toward achieving and sustaining meaningful use as well as converting to the ICD-10 code set, we encourage employers to embrace this positive health IT hiring trend," Klinedinst said. "Delaying IT initiatives because of staffing issues only creates inefficiencies and hinders technological advances like interoperability initiatives. In turn, this can reduce provider effectiveness and negatively impact patient care."

About one-third of health care provider organizations delayed an IT initiative due to staffing shortages, the biggest challenge for employer groups, HIMSS Analytics reported.

Proper certification for network/architecture support and security workers is another concern facing hiring managers in the health care IT industry, according to the report.

The survey also showed a trend toward outsourcing among health care provider organizations, of which 76 percent outsource currently rather than hire, and 93 percent will outsource a business area in the next year.