Staff scarcities have healthcare CIOs strapped

CHIME survey shows vacancies trending upward

ANN ARBOR, MI  - The demands of meeting meaningful use measures within the HHS's established timeframe has industry CIOs strapped and left facing serious IT staff shortages, according to the findings of an October CHIME survey. 

Officials say survey findings underscore the urgent need for an industry-wide solution, as staff shortages continue to climb, with some 67 percent of industry CIOs reporting IT staff deficits  -  up from 59 percent in 2010. And what's worse, as many experts argue, CIOs won't be seeing relief in the near future. 

"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," says Randy McCleese, vice president of information systems and CIO at St. Claire Regional Medical Center and 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." 

Alan Kravitz, founder and CEO of healthcare IT consulting firm MedSys Group Consulting, agrees. If everything continues on its current path, he says, "It will most likely get worse before it gets better."

He explains the reasoning in terms of Economics 101  -  supply and demand. "If you've got the masses in need of a certified EMR going to the Epics, and Cerners and McKessons of the world, you've got too much product being sold, and if you've got too much product being sold at one time, just as if you were in an auto store trying to buy tires, and then 500 people came in to buy the same set of tires, well then there's going to be a problem putting the tires on the car."

Additional survey findings echo Kravitz' point, as more CIOs reported staff shortages this year across all health systems. Some 82 percent of CIOs at academic medical centers; 59 percent at community hospitals; 69 percent at hospital/clinic models, and 58 percent at multi-hospital systems all reported staff deficits.