Health IT to fuel job growth for consultants, recent grads

As expected the stimulus-fueled push to adopt EMRs and achieve meaningful use of the technology is having a profound effect on the job market for recent college graduates as well as established IT professionals.

Health IT research firm KLAS Enterprises reports that nearly 70 percent of healthcare providers nationwide expect to hire outside consultants firm to help them achieve meaningful use and thus qualify for federal EMR subsidies. Among integrated delivery networks, about 90 percent are in the market for consulting services.

But healthcare organizations aren't necessarily looking for armies of consultants to come in and direct major implementation efforts. Many just want some targeted help getting existing systems up to the standard of meaningful use.

"What we're finding is most hospitals over 200 beds have either implemented, or are implementing, an acute care EMR system--the question is what stage of adoption they are in," says report author Mike Smith, according to an article in InformationWeek. "Certainly, back two or three years ago, there were a lot of net new EMR implementations which required some heavy lifting, where providers asked consultants to play a leadership role. What we're seeing now is a little bit of a shift because there are not as many of these net new implementations."

KLAS now counts 13 consulting firms with significant "mindshare" among healthcare providers, up from five in 2007, suggesting that competition for health IT consulting work is fierce. (We like that.) Computer Sciences Corp., is being considered in 17 percent of consulting deals, followed by Vitalize at 12 percent, KLAS reports.

In a separate study, the University of California, San Diego, lists health IT as the top choice among 14 careers examined for recent college graduates and midcareer professionals with four-year degrees. Relatively new jobs such as healthcare integration engineer, healthcare systems analyst, clinical IT consultant and technology support specialist all call for technical expertise, Healthcare IT News reports.

"Several factors--a growing industry with vast employment needs, a societal concern with federal backing for broad reform, and a solution incorporating advanced knowledge and skills among workers--combine to form a strong base for workforce development and employment opportunity for the coming decade," Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership, says in the UCSD study.

To learn more:
- see this InformationWeek story about the KLAS report
- read this KLAS press release
- here's a Healthcare IT News story on job prospects
- download the UCSD report (.pdf)

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