Meaningful Use Creates Predictable IT Talent Squeeze

So, here’s some news that won’t surprise anyone who hasn’t had their head under a rock for the past few years.

According to a recent piece in PC World, the inevitable health IT talent shortage is hitting hospitals hard, driven not only by EMR adoption but also the need to comply with Meaningful Use standards.

As most of you probably know, four of six key deadlines for MU Stage 1 will arrive over the next several months.

Staff-hungry hospital CIOs are shaking their heads, with many afraid that they won’t meet MU goals in time even if they hire consulting talent.  After all, not only are they competing with other hospitals, vendors are scooping up some of their prime candidates as well.

So how did we get into this mess? After all, it’s not as if nobody saw this coming. The thing is, it seems nobody did enough to deal with it, either.

For example, the government has spent $120 million in community college grants for health IT training.  These programs should turn out 7,000 grads between 2013 to 2020.

But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 50,000 health IT staffers hospitals will need to meet MU deadlines — not by 2020, but right now.

Eventually, of course, supply will catch up with demand, particularly as EMR installations start to stabilize. The question is, just when will that happen?

Let’s hope that federal policymakers are thinking hard about this gap. The carrot-and-stick approach embodied by MU may be motivating, but it doesn’t do one thing about the labor shortage.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

3 Comments

  • It is ironic that this article acknowledges and welcomes graduates of the government’s community college grants for health IT training,
    yet graduates go without jobs because everyone in the industry insists on 3-5 years experience with the EHR software.

    Hmmm. What is being missed here?

  • I agree with the previous comment.

    I’ve had multiple decades as an IT Pro, I’m highly knowledgeable about work flow and records needs in hospitals and doctor’s offices, and I’m going through the Fed funded Health IT program for Implementation Managers.

    When I’ve talked to recruiters (all nurses) at a major Long Island health system, they make it very clear that they won’t hire me unless I have extensive hospital IT experience, which of course I can’t get because I don’t already have it. Sure, I’m no expert at the various systems, EPIC (popular here) included. But I can learn – quickly, and as an experienced IT guy – project leader, former developer and DBA, DR expert and more, I have a huge amount to offer.

    But no, they will never consider me no matter how badly they need staff. And it’s not just me. Everyone I’ve met who has gone through the training has been unable to get work using it.

    Piles of money and effort are being wasted here because hospital execs and recruiters have their heads buried deep in the sand, and are intent on burying them even deeper.

    Yesterday I listened to a HIMSS webinar on how they are creating a new certification for newcomers. Oddly it looks nearly identical to the ONC competency ones already in existance.

    My first impression; have it or not, have the ONC or not, it will make little or no difference until hospitals and connected medical groups 1. start to work with each other, and 2. open themselves up to the huge world of available (due to massive offshoring of US hi tech jobs) highly skilled IT pro’s who need relatively little to make a huge difference in EHR implementation.

  • I’d be interested to hear what type of positions you are referring to. I had to start in a desktop support role in order to get my foot in the door of the health IT field. That gave me the hospital IT experience and networking /contacts necessary to move to a higher position.

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