Why Many HIT Pros and Facilities are Choosing Staffing Firms Over Consulting Firms

When a facility or Healthcare IT professional is thinking about entering the world of outsourcing there are mainly two avenues available to them, consulting firms or staffing companies.  Much of the public thinks that consulting firms and staffing companies are one in the same.  While their end goals are similar, their methods and business model are quite different.  Today I would like to explain to you some of those differences and why many of the Healthcare IT professionals and facilities are migrating towards staffing companies.

Staffing firms are usually cut out of a different cloth than consulting shops.  In the staffing world the individuals that lead these establishments are experts in delivering the exact individual you are looking for, in the work model, time line and price point you need!

Let’s face it 75-80% of the time a facility is looking for someone to come in and enhance their existing staff.

  • Whether that is to help on a specific project.
  • To bridge the gap until a FTE can be hired.
  • To bring in a contractor who could turn into a FTE if he or she is a good fit.

Staffing companies can handle all of the above!

Sometimes you are not looking for one company to come in and completely run your project. Often these days consulting firms are focused on the just that!  They put a lot of time and effort into facilities where they can install their solutions based practices.  What I mean by that is they will install a Project Manager, who will then staff the rest of the project using only their candidates! That is the nirvana of the consulting world.  If you are a facility or healthcare system in need of such a thing, then a consulting firm is something you might want to consider.

But if you are looking for project based help such as a (analysts, trainers, project managers or implementers) of your particular system, a staffing firm would nicely fit the bill!

  1. Staffing firms will listen to your specific needs.  They don’t have a bench; therefore they will not be focused on presenting you with an individual they have sitting at home available.  But rather present the proper candidate who best fits your criteria period!
  2. Staffing firms can be flexible with all of your logistical demands.  If you need someone to work Mon-Fri or be from the local area, they can focus their search on just that.   Opposed to presenting you with the “consulting” model where candidates work  (4 10hr days and need to fly home every weekend)
  3. If you are working with an older or a smaller system.  Staffing firms can help you.  Because staffing firms can tailor their search to your specific requirements they can look for those unique and hard to find skill sets.  The consulting firms tend to stick to their skill sets which they have a strong bench for.  Many times, if you are working with a consulting firm that is willing to take a unique opening, odds are they are partnered with a staffing company.
  4. Staffing firms are made up of staffing professionals.  People who have made a career of finding and building relationships with tough to find candidates.  Too often consulting firms are made up of former consultants, who may be able to implement your particular system but fall short when relied upon to find quality and affordable candidates willing to work in your facility.

If you are a Healthcare IT professional and are thinking about stepping out into the exciting world of contracting or consulting here are some reasons why Staffing Firms might be a great choice for you as well!

  1. You get to choose your work location!- When you sign up with a consulting firms, you might get a nice salary and benefits, but one of the caveats is, you have to go where the work is.  Of course if you are from Baltimore, they will attempt to keep you within a few hour plane ride of Baltimore, however if the only work you are suited for is in New Mexico, well you will need to go to New Mexico, or perhaps be laid off!  If you work with a few staffing companies you can tailor your search to be as close to home as possible and  most likely you will find something within an hour or so of your home!
  2. The money is usually better! – As a contractor you can negotiate each and every one of your own deals. Consulting firms often have a lot more overhead and therefore higher costs associated with each placement. This in turn makes the cost to the client actually higher than that of a staffing company.  While the payout to the Healthcare IT professional is less.
  3. The fit is often better. Since you are interviewing for a specific opportunity as opposed to joining a firm, you will be an exact match.  When joining a firm, they are talking about your skills in general.  Not what you are going to do on a specific placement.

So in summation; when choosing a firm, whether it is for a new position for yourself or to help augment your current employees, please consider a staffing firm.  I think you will be happy that you did!

About the author


Arthur Damon


  • Thanks for your post Arthur!

    I think that it’s important to point out that staffing firms and consulting firms are different as you point out, but neither of their approaches to the market is correct or incorrect.

    The model of staffing firms is to generally to provide “bodies” with specific skills to support projects where the client will generally maintain total control and total accountability for the results or a project.

    The model for consulting firms is to help clients offset their risk by taking on some (or all) control and accountability for the results of a project. This requires consulting firm to staff project not only with people with the skills required to do the hands on work, but the management and other soft skills required to complete projects on time and budget.

    I think there is confusion in the marketplace when staffing firms pretend to be consulting firms and when consulting firms pretend to be staffing firms in order “to get the business”.

    I know that clients are often confused … and I often spend time helping clients understand the differences and creating strategies to incorporate both staffing firms and consulting firms into their project delivery model.

  • Arthur is spot on.

    They are two totally different concepts.

    As an advice to the person seeking a position in the consulting space you have to be able to deal with a lot of travel to places you may not even like, (I’ve been to places where you only have 2 restaurants in a 100 mile radius), and for prolonged periods of time. You may also have to travel on Sundays to be at the client site early Monday morning and you may be leaving on a Thursday to arrive home after midnight.

    In the consulting practice you also find yourself mainly working with a team or several of them. You will rarely have independence on where to eat or lodge since the decision is mainly done collectively and the stronger voices will generally get their way. Although I’ve mostly been in teams where consensus has been the norm.

    Your laptop becomes your office. If you are accustomed to a comfortable environment and sufficient space then you may have to get used to working in a crowded conference room with many others with their laptops and if lucky you get to share a projector when you need to work on a PowerPoint or a diagram. You may also have to get used to packing up and moving elsewhere since that conference room is shared by other projects teams.

    Being on the bench can be excruciating at times because of the uncertainty. So if you can’t keep busy on your own and be constantly trying to sell your skills to the people that are in charge of placing your services on the ground you may not be a good fit for a consultant.


  • Joe

    These are some great points! In fact I think your second and third paragraphs could be a great barometer for how facilities decide who to use when supplementing their staff.

    If you are looking for someone to come in and assume some of the risk, responsibility and “own the project” , a consulting firm is the way to go. They will have consultants on staff who can expertly take over the project and bring in additional consultants where is needed. The client will have to do very little except sign the checks to pay them.

    However, having worked for both consulting and staffing companies throughout the years, it is my belief that if you are looking for talented subject matter experts to add to your team, a staffing company is the way to go. Whether you need help during an implementation, go-live, upgrade or any other project that your facility will own and run, a staffing company is the way to go! There are two huge positives that come from going this route.

    1. You get someone who is truly specific to your needs. A good staffing company will tailor their search to find you the subject matter expert who fits your exact needs both skill wise and logistically.

    2. Often the cost will be more economical for the client. Why pay for all the overhead and extra knowledge and ability to own and run the project, if you don’t need it.

    All in all there is a place for both the consulting firm and staffing company. If you use the barometer above, I believe you will make the right choice each and every time.

  • Arthur,
    Thank you for your article! Very valid points. I am wondering if you might know where I could connect with IT Healthcare folks who are Epic Certified, or will be soon? We are a Medical Professional staffing agency who has specialized in Health Care for 25 years. We were the first to be accredited so, have set the standards in this industry. Our clients are located all across the U.S. I would be happy to assist Health Care professionals with opportunities in their field. Thank you. kathleencook@advmr.net

  • Hi Kathleen!

    I just sent you an email introducing you to our sister site, http://www.HealthcareITCentral.com, the industry’s leading job board. Basic job postings are free, and the caliber of the candidates is top-notch! Feel free to get in touch if you’re interested in learning more about site and newsletter sponsorship opportunities.

    Thanks for reading the blog!

    Gwen Darling

  • In response to the above the staffing model does assume more and more of the risk as well as provide bodies with specific skills to support projects where the client will generally maintain total control and total accountability for the results or a project.
    Staffing firms may not manage the people or project and that is reflected in the pricing which is typically half the cost of professional consulting firms. Staffing firms must also assume the risks associated with the new health care laws, insurance, compliance and all State and Federal labor laws.
    I don’t think there is much confusion in the marketplace between staffing and consulting. Staffing assumes a majority of the risk as the agency of record and leaves control of the projects to the company. Given the recent stories of how far over budget and how much fraud has been found in large projects I assume more and more companies would be looking to control the projects and budgets using staffing companies.
    At the end of the day companies should talk to both staffing and consulting companies and decide which route provides the right value. http://wwwinfinity-cs.com operating in 27 states and has run many projects from 10 -100 people.

  • The staffing model has been gaining momentum as a go to solution. The past couple of years we’ve seen staffing companies assume more and more risk as the agency of record while providing valued resources to support our clients. A shift in attitude by the customer is one of the primary reasons for this evolution. Now stakeholders are embracing the idea of maintaining control and sharing accountability with staffing suppliers while leveraging best in class professionals to achieve the desired results for their projects.
    This shift affords customers competitive price points which are considerably less than professional consulting firms. Staffing firms just might be the answer to relieve customers of some of the liability associated our new health care laws, insurance requirements, compliance responsibilities and all State and Federal labor laws.
    There is no doubt that there is value to be gained by either solution whether it is staffing or consulting. Staffing assumes risk as the agency of record while leaving project control with the company. Outsourcing surrenders ownership of the project. It is no secret the risk of relinquishing ownership may result in budget overruns and mismanaged projects. So it makes perfect sense that more companies are looking to control their projects and budgets by leveraging staffing companies. For the record there are many reputable consulting firms which provide value, staffing is a viable alternative.
    At the end of the day companies should talk to both staffing and consulting companies and decide which route provides the right value. Please visit us at http://www.infinity-cs.com – Winner Best of StaffingTM Client for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

  • Staffing firms will be gone in 10 years, as corporate sourcing departments will go right to oDesk, eLance, and LinkedIn to find candidates without a valueless middleman.

    Consulting firms with ultra specialization will thrive.

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