For those of us involved in healthcare technology, the last few years have meant job security and plenty of opportunities for growth. While many other areas of the economy were struggling financially and laying off employees, healthcare was exploding. There were numerous articles written about talent shortages and bidding wars for specific skill sets. Consulting firms were hiring anyone with any healthcare IT skills. As MU1 has passed and ICD-10 and MU2 loom ahead will the hiring frenzy continue?
The answer is both a yes and a no. While there are still numerous organizations looking at major installs, the number has dwindled and so will the need for large implementation and go-live crews. Those with skills in optimization and project management will continue to be in demand.
After years spending large portions of the organizational capital budget and increasing portions of the operational budget on IT, CEOs and CFOs are looking for ways to trim costs as reimbursements shrink. One of the first areas they look to now is IT. Some CEOs we speak with say they know IT is important and leads to cost savings, but other priorities require attention after years of reduced investment. One CIO we recently spoke with has to reduce his staff by more than10 percent and he still doesn't have all of his hospitals live on Epic.
Priorities in IT will change and so will the skillsets needed. Business Intelligence and security are two areas that will continue to increase in demand. Healthcare is not as robust in these areas as other verticals such as finance, so organizations may start to hire from other industries to fill in key talent gaps.
Informatics will remain critical to optimization, and clinical and technical understanding will be key to the success of system use and ROI.
In the mid '90s, there were approximately 9,500 hospitals and health systems. In the late 90's there was a wave of mergers and acquisitions that resulted in larger systems and a reduction to hospitals and health systems to around 7,000. With the new wave, we are less than 5,000 and predications indicate that the number will continue to decrease to fewer than 2,000. Many mergers are viewed as ways to cut costs and reduce redundancy. One of the first areas to merge is information technology.
With healthcare corporate marriages increasing and implementations decreasing, there will be a "freeing up" of IT talent. We have already noticed consulting firms shortening their bench time, laying off people more quickly, and no longer hiring "to the bench". Recently we have also encountered more organizations with hiring freezes in place or at least not filling open positions.
We have also been privy to more conversations from seasoned CIOs who are saying their job is just not as much fun as it was previously and now is the time to retire. While you will continue to see an increase of CIO openings, it will not be as many as expected due to position duplication through mergers.
Even though healthcare is tightening its belt, so to speak, there will continue to be numerous opportunities for those with a history of success, good education and the right talent for the future.
Judy Kirby, CPC, is president and CEO of Kirby Partners, an executive search firm specializing in healthcare IT for the past 24 years.