IT staff shortages still a reality for most healthcare CIOs

More healthcare organization executives are reporting shortages of IT staff today than two years ago, according to a new survey from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. Of 163 CIOs who responded to the survey, more than two-thirds said they're experiencing shortages, up from 59 percent in 2010. The bulk of responses came either from a community hospital (35 percent) or a multi-hospital (32 percent) setting.

Nearly three-fourths of responding CIOs said help with clinical software implementation and implementing clinical systems such as electronic health records and computerized provider order entry are their top priorities. Forty-seven percent, meanwhile, called infrastructure staff a high priority, with 45 percent saying they needed to hire for business software implementation and support needs.

"Even with two years of focused attention on implementing electronic health records at the nation's hospitals, in response to federal incentives, it's clear that staffing is a significant concern for IT executives," Randy McCleese, CIO at Morehead, Ky.-based St. Claire Regional Medical Center, said in a statement. "Staff needs aren't likely to abate over the next couple of years, as CIOs continue to push to achieve Meaningful Use targets and switch to ICD-10 compliant applications."

In a recent report by Wanted Analytics, EHR training was the most sought-after skill by healthcare employers. The report found that employers are increasingly looking for healthcare professionals to manage EHR systems.

Meanwhile, in a report released in March by PwC, 48 percent of providers said they were in need of IT talent. In that report, lack of individuals trained in health IT, as well as the lack of faculty to train such individuals, was a barrier to clinical informatics programs at different facilities.

Staff retention is top-of-mind for CIOs, with 85 percent saying they were worried about keeping their talent. According to the survey's authors, current retention concerns likely have been bolstered by the ever-growing number of IT projects for healthcare facilities.

"Clinical systems are very complex, are regularly being updated, and new clinical staff must be trained to use them as well," George McCulloch, deputy CIO at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in a statement. "Being able to retain IT staff familiar with an organization's systems is crucial for CIOs."

To learn more:
- here's the full survey (.pdf)
- check out the accompanying statement