The marching orders are in. The National Coordinator for Health IT, Dr. David Blumenthal has stated the need for an estimated 50,000 additional healthcare information technology workers. Federal money is being offered to fund higher education to train the new HIT work force. This is exciting news! I have some thoughts on where these highly skilled healthcare IT workers might come from and some of the challenges they may face.
One of the rewards for being an executive recruiter in healthcare information technology is being able to meet and talk to outstanding individuals with amazing backgrounds. The question I will often ask is “What led you to choose a career in healthcare IT?” What I have learned is always fascinating, many CIOs, CMIOs, clinical IT and other senior leaders have found their way to healthcare IT roles through various paths. They may have started out in other areas such as consulting, working for vendors, in the military, engineering, sales or government. Many have acquired MBAs and have business knowledge and acumen from other industries.
Interestingly, most individuals mentioned that they came into healthcare IT not necessarily for the money, but for the mission and the desire to use IT to improve patient care. Some even fell into healthcare IT by accident, being drafted or offered a position and then decided to stay. Where these IT leaders came from, I believe, can give us insight on where to look for the next wave of healthcare IT professionals.
Here are some of my ideas on where to find some of these 50,000 workers:
- Inside health systems, many departments using or implementing the electronic medical record (EMR) have “super users” and techno savvy individuals that with some coaching, training and mentoring could become our next IT stars
- Clinicians and other clinical specialists who move over to IT: physicians, nurses, pharmacists, medical technologists, radiologists, biomedical engineers, health information management and other clinical ancillary professionals.
- Non-clinicians project managers with specific EMR vendor product experience.
- Healthcare industry consultants and vendors with operational EMR experience.
- Outside of healthcare, those individuals with people, project and/or change management skills, technical expertise or IT security knowledge.
I realize some key challenges facing outsiders will be the need to understand the clinicians’ role in the health system and willingness to learn our many acronyms, terminologies, applications and secret codes. Some suggestions to help CIOs recruiting talent outside of healthcare are:
- Set up internship programs with the local community colleges, technical institutes and universities.
- Teach classes or workshops in health IT and informatics. Push for more programs in your area.
- Look for the strong transferable soft skills like communication and interpersonal skills and mentor and guide.
- Seek hard skills such as technical expertise common to all industries and certain certifications such as project management (PMP certification) and in IT Security (CISSP and CSM certification).
Clinicians have faced resistance and barriers moving into IT, such as peer pressure and gaining credibility in IT, but their knowledge of clinical workflow and direct patient care make them valuable assets to the IT team. There are sure to be other barriers to overcome as we march forward.
I’m looking forward to welcoming all the new fresh faces in healthcare IT. This should be an interesting change year for all of us. Welcome to 2010 everyone!