79 percent of IT organizations hiring

Stocking up in response to an unprecedentedly challenging environment
By Mike Miliard
09:34 AM

With hospitals rushing to meet federal mandates and IT developers struggling to stay competitive, healthcare providers and technology vendors alike are on a hiring spree, according to HIMSS Analytics' first-ever health IT workforce survey.

The report, published Thursday, examines hiring trends and barriers for provider organizations and IT vendors based on the responses of nearly 225 executives.

More than 85 percent of survey respondents indicated that their organization hired at least one employee in 2012. Just 13 percent reported implementing layoffs during the same time frame. While hiring has been robust for both groups, vendors were more likely to report hiring staff than were healthcare providers, according to HIMSS Analytics.

In 2012, providers and vendors hired in different employment areas. The former were most likely to hire clinical application support positions and help desk IT staff; the latter primarily looked for sales and marketing professional.

Looking ahead, 79 percent of organizations across both categories said they plan to hire additional staff in the coming 12 months.

"As healthcare organizations become increasingly sophisticated with their IT initiatives, human resource leaders are experiencing a new set of hiring challenges," said Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of research for HIMSS Analytics. "By identifying those challenges and hiring trends, we hope this new report will be considered a resource for career development professionals as they plan their strategic personnel efforts."

Other takeaways from the survey:

  • Respondents from both employer groups reported competitive salary and benefit programs were critical to hiring qualified personnel. Job boards (70 percent) and employee referrals (69 percent) were the most frequently reported recruiting tools for both groups.
  • Both groups reported they were most likely to use professional development opportunities to retain staff (60 percent of provider organizations; 64 percent vendor organizations). Additional employee retention incentives included telecommuting or tuition reimbursement, which varied in popularity between the two employer groups.
  • More than three-quarters (76 percent) of healthcare provider organization respondents currently outsource a service rather than hiring directly; while 93 percent have plans to outsource an area in the next year.
  • Both healthcare providers and vendor organizations find certification for network/architecture support and security personnel to be the most important. Vendors overall rated the importance of certification higher than healthcare provider organizations.
  • Approximately one-third of healthcare provider organizations indicated that they had to place an IT initiative on hold due to staffing shortages, and many expressed that these lower priority issues created risks to patient care and revenue generation. The lack of a local qualified talent pool was the biggest reported challenge to fully staffing for both employer groups.

In the July print edition of Healthcare IT News, HIMSS researchers showed how these shortages are sometimes having an unwelcome effect of health IT initiatives' forward motion.

"Projects are getting delayed," said Horowitz. "Organizations are, to some extent, having to pick and choose what they're doing."

"You have hospital boards applying pressure to CIOs to transform care, and yet the CIO doesn't have the talent to do it," says JoAnn W. Klinedinst, vice president of professional development for HIMSS.

But even as cash-strapped and short-staffed providers grapple with meaningful use and ICD-10, it's imperative that they push ahead with their technology implications.

"Delaying IT initiatives because of staffing issues only creates inefficiencies and hinders technological advances like interoperability initiatives," said Klinedinst in a July 11 press statement. "In turn, this can reduce provider effectiveness and negatively impact patient care."

The HIMSS Analytics survey was sponsored by Medix IT. Download the full report here.

[See also: EMR jobs going gangbusters]