NEWS MONITOR: Healthcare IT: Is it a breed apart?

By Bernie Monegain
12:00 AM

With the growth of information technology projects throughout the healthcare industry and continued technology revamps and upgrades in other business and industry sectors, CIOs and IT managers are in great demand.

On the healthcare front, should IT chiefs and managers be especially trained in healthcare? We posed the question to readers in our September News Monitor poll.

Of the 91 people who responded, 81, or 88 percent, said, "yes," and 11, or 12 percent said "no." Many of the respondents who advocated specialized training as critical said healthcare presented complex and unique challenges unlike any other industry. Those who said "no" figured, "IT is IT," as one reader put it.

"Is there really that much of a difference in IT that a healthcare IT professional category is warranted?" asked one unidentified respondent. "I don't think so."

Another respondent said our question was "an insult to the millions of first-rate American IT professionals who have lost their jobs to offshoring."

Here's a sample of the approach of most respondents who favor specialized training in healthcare IT.

"The healthcare industry is very different compared to other industries,' said Kevin Karl, director of applications at Resurrection Health Care in Elk Grove Village, Ill. "I have seen multiple non-healthcare experienced IT professionals struggle with the terminology and the workflow issues that are unique to healthcare."

Gene Hubbard, director IT&S-Telecommunications at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colo., said IT directors from the business world are not prepared for the legal issues surrounding health records and the intricacies of dealing with doctors and nurses.

"While IT directors from the health world can easily transition to the business world, the reverse cannot be said," he said. "The learning curve would be much too steep for someone not from a healthcare background to become productive in a timely manner."

Bruce F. Monnier, president of TalentCare Group, a recruiting and staffing firm in Livonia Mich., sees a need for IT educational programs focused on healthcare.

"A defined educational curriculum and career development path agenda for HIT professionals should be a joint private and public initiative and a prerequisite to improve healthcare outcomes and affordability moving forward," Monnier said. "This is definitely a pay-me-a-dollar-now or pay-me-$10-later issue.""The HIT environment presents IT professionals with similar challenges found in other industry sectors," Monnier said, "but there are few other than defense, public safety, nuclear regulatory, etc., where the outcomes are as mission-critical as the life-threatening situations found in healthcare."

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