50,000 extra employees needed to meet meaningful use criteria

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT projects that healthcare providers will need 50,000 additional IT workers to meet the meaningful use criteria to get government incentives for EMRs. Despite government moves to help train these additional IT workers, a new report from CSC says, healthcare providers will have to adopt alternative strategies to get the job done because the workforce won't expand rapidly enough to meet their needs.

A 2010 College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) survey found that only 10.7 percent of respondents listed staffing as their top concern, the CSC study notes. But about half of the respondents listed staff levels and capabilities among their top three concerns, and it was the most frequently mentioned second and third concern.

While IT staffing is an issue in most hospitals, it's a more pressing concern among those that plan to implement EMRs and apply for government incentives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). For those facilities, time is the enemy, because they have to apply for the first tranche of government funds in 2011. Under the ONC projection, the IT workforce would have to increase by 50 percent for most providers to show meaningful use; but only a small percentage of those workers is expected to be online by next year. The government's $118 million program to train new technicians at community colleges won't produce its first graduates until March.

The CSC report recommends that institutions look at other ways to meet their IT staffing needs. These include training and developing technicians from their existing staff; filling in workforce gaps with skill sets from within the organization; and exploring alternative strategies, including remote hosting and using hospital health IT staff and consultants to assist physicians.

To learn more:
- read the article in CMIO
- e
xplore the CSC report