Clinical IT professionals hard to find

By Bernie Monegain
10:29 AM

New clinical informatics positions at hospitals are proving difficult to fill, according to a new study from Hay Group. Forty-seven percent of healthcare organizations reported challenges with recruitment, retention or both.

Eighty-two percent of respondents said the positions are designed to be filled by full-time employees, rather than by consultants, and many healthcare organizations indicated the positions originated with temporary agreements.

[For another point of view, see Health IT consultants in demand.]

"These positions are so new and so specialized that it's not surprising to see these professionals capitalizing on the market demand for their services," said Dan Mayfield, a healthcare consultant with Hay Group. "Retention will be tough until more talent develops in the market. Also, programmers tend to enjoy the design and implementation project phases, rather than the maintenance and utilization of systems. We see this difference in IT positions across all industries."

A surge in interest regarding clinical informatics positions was created in response to the American Recovery Act's push to implement electronic medical record systems to create efficiencies in healthcare, but also to create jobs. [See: War on talent about to begin in healthcare IT.] Nearly all respondents (96 percent) have begun to create these positions and structure the departments; 32 percent report they are one year to two years into the process - the largest segment currently in the timeline.

Organizations that reported having completed the process of building EMR capabilities and have staffed the departments accordingly, said it took an average of 44 months.

"Nearly every healthcare client I have recently spoken with has clinical informatics positions, and seemed to have created them without much direction or structure," said Mayfield. "Due to the lack of benchmark data and an understanding of best practices, there has been a lot of improvising. Having a resource available to better understand the market for clinical informatics positions will help our clients greatly as they adapt and adjust going forward."

Responding to market needs, Hay Group is one of the first management consultancies to produce an analysis of newly formed clinical informatics positions in hospitals and health systems. The resulting report features information and statistics regarding recruitment, retention and rewards for these newly formed IT positions.

Clinical informatics positions have been added to Hay Group's 2011 Healthcare Compensation Survey, which is now open for submissions. Data from that survey will be available in July 2011.

Hay Group's clinical informatics data is derived from a survey sent to large complex hospitals and health systems in November 2010, when 65 organizations supplied data (50 were integrated health systems with an average of 12 hospitals, the rest were stand-alone hospitals). Typical respondents to the survey include compensation professionals in the Human Resources departments. Hay Group's core compensation database represents compensation practices for almost 3,000 companies and over 6 million employees.