How to hire the best people for your EHR team

How to find them, what to offer
By Tim Cannon
09:26 AM
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Successful electronic health record implementation or transition hinges on the right IT team. In a previous post, I discussed how you need a messenger, planner, educator, and supporter on your team for a smooth transition.

But knowing who you need on your EHR team is one thing; finding and hiring them is another. Here are some tips on how to find the best professionals and how to get them to join the team:

The messenger: focus on communication
What to look for: When hiring a messenger, you're looking for the person on your EHR team who will keep everyone updated and informed on the process. In addition to tech skills and experience, they need serious communication skills.

The communication skills you need go beyond quickly answering emails and returning phone calls. You need a professional who can tactfully deliver news that may be difficult for providers and other personnel to swallow and who is available to answer questions for non-tech professionals.

In the interview, ask candidates about a time when they had to deliver bad news, point out flaws in a system or workflow, or tell clients they weren't using technology and tools correctly. How did they go about it? What was the outcome? Did they present a solution to the client, and did the client agree to it?

If you're looking to fill positions internally, ask around for top communicators. Look for the employee who communicates well in any situation.

What to offer:
To bring a top health IT communicator on board, you need to be transparent. In a survey published by 15Five in March, 81 percent of employees surveyed said they would rather join a company that values open communication than other popular perks like free food and gym memberships.

Open communication is even more important for your EHR implementation team. For things to run smoothly, you need to keep your IT team members in the loop. Be open and honest with candidates throughout the hiring process, to show them that they would be working with a transparent employer who values communication.

The planner: look for flexibility
What to look for: When you're implementing new technology, things are bound to go wrong. Plans will change, priorities will shift, and schedules will rearrange. Your organizer and project manager will need to handle all these changes and challenges, and have the flexibility to manage them all.

When looking for an EHR project manager, ask employees and candidates about a time when an implementation, transition, or other project went wrong. What happened? How did they react in the situation, and what was the end result?

You want the person who remains calm under pressure and can quickly adapt to new information and problems.

What to offer:
If you want a flexible project manager, be a flexible employer -- it's one of the most important things to health IT professionals. In fact, my company surveyed health IT employees and found that 40.9 percent said the option to work from home is the most important perk a health IT company can offer, followed by flexible work hours.

Although flexibility may not always be feasible during an EHR implementation, offer it when possible. Allow your IT team
 to work remotely when it makes sense, and offer shortened or flexible hours during down times. Offering health IT professionals a little flexibility and autonomy will attract top candidates.

The educator: find knowledge
What to look for: For the smoothest transition, your EHR team should have experience working with the specific system you're implementing. The IT team member responsible for educating your staff about the new system needs to know it inside and out, but should also be familiar with your old or current system.

IT team members who have experience with both systems will be better able to relate to your staff, explain the differences between the two, and demonstrate how to use the new system and its benefits. Internally, find the person who is familiar with the old system but can quickly learn and adapt to the new one.

When hiring outside talent, targeting these very specific skills won't be easy. Using niche job board sites can help you narrow down health IT professionals with the experience you need. You can also search LinkedIn groups, Twitter chats, and other social media discussions, to find knowledgeable talent in these areas.

What to offer:
Health IT employees crave professional development and education. In fact, the HealthITJobs.com survey found that continuing education is one of the top perks health IT professionals want, yet, on a scale from one to 10, 64 percent of respondents rated the development opportunities provided by their workplaces at five or below.

To attract top talent, give health IT professionals opportunities to expand their skills, learn new systems, and work on a variety of responsibilities.

The supporter: screen for attitude
What to look for: Transitioning to a new EHR system is a marathon, and you need a cheerleader to keep everyone motivated when things go wrong. Your IT team members need to have a positive attitude, to manage the concerns of clinical staff and keep them from getting frustrated and stressed by the system.

Ask current employees and candidates about difficult situations they've experienced in the past. Was there a time when they needed to make a change other staff members were against? How do they handle concerns and pressure from clients and non-technical staff members?

Look for the person who remains positive, even when discussing past problems and issues. You need someone who will focus on the solution, not the problem.

What to offer:
Your IT team can only do so much to keep spirits high without strong leadership behind them. But health IT employers are lacking in this area, and it's one of the top three areas professionals think employers need to improve, the HealthITJobs.com survey found.

To attract positive professionals, you need to provide strong leadership for both your clinical and IT teams. Be supportive, provide resources, and offer feedback to create a positive working environment.

What do you think? How do you bring top health IT professionals on board your EHR team?