Healthcare Pros Learning IT

Ever since I wrote my post about the Old Boys Club of Healthcare IT, I’ve been meaning to write a follow up piece about healthcare pros learning IT. In fact, many of the following comments came from or were inspired by discussion with Tom Roberts. So, let’s give him credit where credit is due.

The discussion of whether to only hire someone with healthcare experience and no IT experience versus someone with IT experience and no healthcare experience is a complicated one. Let me provide some quotes that will hopefully cause some hospital CIO’s and other senior level IT management to pause and think about their hiring choice.

First a few quotes that could apply to the idea of being multi-disciplinary:

“One thing we know about creativity is that it typically occurs when people who have mastered two or more quite different fields use the framework in one to think afresh about the other.”
— Marc Tucker, pres. National Center on Education and Economy

“We begin where others leave off” George Szell

I think one thing that’s generally been missing from healthcare IT has been people with an outside framework that can apply afresh that framework to healthcare. It’s amazing what fresh eyes can do to help find creative solutions. Funny thing is that in hindsight they don’t seem that creative, but we’re so blinded by tradition that we can’t see even simple creativity.

This next story is one that will strike many at the heart.

I know of an RN who had quite a bit of IT background that was working for one of the early adopter hospitals. One day he put a set of scrubs on his managers desk. When the manager asked what they were for he said ‘ I thought you might want to give them to one of your IT guys and we’ll give him an assignment on the floor today. The manager said ‘what? Are you crazy’ ? To which he replied ‘ well you just gave IT analyst positions to some RNs here!’

The reality is that learning has to take place in both directions. Someone who can cross the chasm is unique, but it is doable and will be needed in the future. Instead of only hiring those with healthcare experience or only those with healthcare and IT experience, we should consider creating processes that allow you to hire either side of the chasm and provide a bridge for those people to learn both sides.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

1 Comment

  • John, you’ve picked one of my favorite topics! As you know, I’m one of those long time IT pros wanting to go into HealthIT. I’ve finished the ONC based course for Implementation Manager, but while doing so I had a clear view of how ONC tried to reconcile 2 different problems; prepare IT pros to work in HealthIT, and provide a minimum of IT skills to clinicians. Same desired outcome – people who can implement EHR’s. But the course assumes that you know little of either side, IT or things medical. But in a limited time, it can’t give you a lot of both.

    The only reason I consider myself qualified for work in HealthIT is that beyond my existing IT background (covering all the IT issues in the course and then some) I also have learned a lot on the medical side on my own over the years. IMHO, the training program needs serious fixing. Split the two types of students into their appropriate groups, give them ONLY the training they need to be able to work with the other group, and then teach them about EHR’s together. On top of that, add visits to hospitals and medical practices to see EHR’s in use, and make sure that each person gets at least a few hours hands on in each of several – perhaps following doctors while they work.

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