Attracting, retaining health IT staff remains a problem

The U.S. healthcare industry is struggling to find sufficient numbers of skilled employees and the outlook isn't bright.

A new report from Towers Watson, which surveyed more than 100 healthcare providers, including hospitals, highlights the need for information technology (IT) professionals presents an immediate challenge, as hospitals and health systems strive to meet government requirements relating to EHR systems and Meaningful Use taking effect in 2014.

Two-thirds surveyed reported problems attracting experienced IT workers, and 38 percent reported retention issues.

"Important as incentive payments may be, the real payoff of an effective and fully compliant IT system is its role in aiding clinical decision making," report authors write. "Many health care leaders are already seeing how real savings can accrue from using evidence-based medicine to help redesign the way services are delivered."

Two percent of health industry respondents said retaining EHR system Epic-certified employees is difficult. The report also points out dissonance between employers and employees in that IT employees, not particularly interested in mobility, are focused on the practical, while employers are interested in development.

Employers also are missing the importance of senior leadership, according to the report. The report finds the most effective ways to retain employees are increases in base pay rates, retention bonuses and additional education.

One of the main problems is healthcare employers are not looking ahead--something the report suggests can be improved by developing relationships with local colleges.

"Savvy employers need to look well beyond the basics, not only by exploring the elements of a broader value proposition tailored for different employee groups, but also by shaping a work experience and proposition that align with the very different shape this industry will have in the future," the report concludes.

In September 2012, a survey from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives found that two-thirds of CIOs responded that they're experiencing IT staff shortages. This March, a Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey found healthcare leaders were revisiting their IT staffing strategies during the continued struggle to attract needed talent.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)
- read the announcement from Towers Watson

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KLAS: Providers turn to consultants to navigate EHR challenges
Don't discount applicants during health IT talent shortage


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