The “hot” topic this year is the healthcare IT workforce shortage and its impact on health system CIOs and their provider organizations. The CHIME CIO Fall Forum in Phoenix last week held a CIO panel discussion about the shortage, and CHIME just published findings from a recent survey about the IT staffing shortages, other articles about the shortage of HIT workforce are showing up lately. Not only are health systems looking for qualified workers, so are HIT vendors and consulting firms. How can health system CIOs cope with hiring, retaining and affording the type of IT talent they need to lead and implement their clinical IT initiatives? What are typical salaries for these top clinical IT positions in health systems?
Out of sight salaries
Over the last year, provider, consulting and vendor organizations have stepped up the pace of hiring for Clinical IT leadership positions. The competition for experienced EMR IT leaders is very intense. I have heard from several candidates in the last week who have received several job offers with consulting firms. I was amazed that the salaries were in the $260k to $300k range. Most not-for-profit providers will not be able to afford that high salary, but unfortunately they need that level of talent. HR departments have set salary ranges for most IT leadership positions, but the shortage in clinical IT talent has forced adjustments or more creative ways to attract key staff. These searches can no longer be done locally or regionally but nationally, so the competition is fierce for the same pool of candidates.
Reasons why health systems can win IT talent
So why would a qualified clinical IT leader choose a health system over a consulting firm or vendor position? Here are some reasons I have heard:
- Quality of life
- No weekly out-of-town travel
- Being part of a permanent team
- Close to impacting patient care
- Mission of not-for-profit health system
Examples of Clinical IT leadership salaries
Based on my recruiting experience and discussions with health system clients and candidates, the salaries for clinical IT leadership positions have increased over the last four years. They vary by size of system, region, and vendor product expertise. Here are some examples of titles and ranges to take in account as you budget for staffing:
- Clinical IT Manager – $110,000 to $125,000
- Clinical IT Director – $125,000 to $150,000
- AVP or Senior IT Director – $150,000 to $175,000
- VP or C-level – $175,000 to $225,000 and above
Ways to cope and strategies to compete
Back in pre-Y2K time, creative retention strategies were prevalent, and guess what – they are here again. It is becoming more common for health system CIOs to offer retention bonuses, non-competes and special contracts to hold onto their key Clinical IT leadership. But what else can you do to find, keep and afford key clinical IT leaders?
- Train, mentor internal staff
- Hire older experienced IT workers (Baby Boomers)
- Give retention, sign on, performance bonuses
- Use non-competes and contracts
- Act swiftly to hire when you find someone
- Use outside consultants to fill gaps and then recruit them
The shortage of qualified clinical IT leaders is a fact, but being realistic on your hiring expectations, looking for creative ways to attract and retain talent can help.