IT staff deficits have CIOs strapped

Chief information officers (CIOs) at healthcare organizations nationwide are confronted with growing challenges as they continue to see IT staff shortages, according to the findings of a CHIME survey released Thursday.

Officials say the survey highlights the urgent need for IT professionals in the industry, as more than two-thirds (67 percent) of industry CIOs reported deficits on their IT staffs, up from 59 percent in 2010.  

As in 2010, respondents said they are in need of specialists capable of implementing and supporting clinical applications, such as electronic health records (EHRs) and computerized provider order entry. Some 74 percent of respondents to the CHIME survey indicated they most need clinical software implementation and support staff, similar to the 70 percent who said they needed clinical implementation and support staff in the 2010 survey.

[See also: 2012 HIMSS Survey: IT staffing shortage key barrier to meeting IT priorities.]

“Even with two years of focused attention on implementing electronic health records at the nation’s hospitals, in response to federal incentives, it’s clear that staffing is a significant concern for IT executives,” said Randy McCleese, vice president of information systems and CIO at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, Ky., and a CHIME board member. “Staff needs aren’t likely to abate over the next couple years, as CIOs continue to push to achieve meaningful use targets and switch to ICD-10-compliant applications.”

The percentage of respondents who expressed concern that staffing challenges will negatively impact their organizations’ chances to receive HITECH stimulus fund payments dropped from 70 percent in 2010 to 59 percent in 2012.

Compared with 2010 survey results, more CIOs reported staff shortages this year. At academic medical centers, 82 percent of CIOs indicated unfilled positions; at community hospitals, some 59 percent; 69 percent at hospital/clinic models; and multi-hospital systems at 58 percent. (See graph above.)

Moreover, survey findings also show some 71 percent of respondents reporting vacancy rates of less than 10 percent in their IT departments.
 Survey respondents indicated that their strategies for dealing with shortages haven’t changed significantly over the past two years – the approach most often mentioned is hiring third-party consultants, although a slightly lower percentage of respondents said they were using consultants in 2012.

[See also: Demand exceeds supply for some health IT jobs.]