Study: More HIT employees needed, but not available

All sectors of the healthcare industry want to hire more staff to help them with electronic health record implementation, data integration and interoperability--if only they could find the talent.

More than two-thirds (70 percent) of health insurers and 48 percent of providers say they're on a hiring spree and expect to increase their technical staff, according to a new PwC informatics report and survey of more than 600 healthcare professionals.  In contrast, only 36 percent of providers and 30 percent of insurers expected to hire clinical staff.

However, the lack of individuals trained in HIT--and the lack of faculty to train them--was a barrier to respondents' clinical informatics programs, with 40 percent of providers expressing concern about filling the needed positions. Some health systems have gone so far as to partner with local universities to help train and recruit employees. For example, 80 percent of Intermountain Healthcare's informaticists graduated from the University of Utah's biomedical informatics program, where leaders of the health system also have a faculty appointment, according to the study.

The government has attempted to increase the number of personnel to handle the surge in EHR use and other HIT initiatives. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has created a program to encourage the increased training of individuals in HIT, including grants and support of community college training programs. And last week, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Labor announced an additional initiative to train people who would provide HIT in rural areas.

The PwC study's respondents also reported that some health systems and EHR vendors are beginning to collaborate to build patient data warehouses, although they're still concerned about the quality of EHR data. Fully 90 percent of pharma/life science respondents reported that having access to the clinical data stored in EHRs would help with draft research and development.

To learn more:
- read the PwC announcement
- here's the landing page for the PwC report
- see the HHS/DOL announcement