Dare I ask the question . . . is the Epic consulting market softening? Beginning to soften? Or maybe it’s a melted stick of butter at the end of summer picnic in mid-August that never got scooped up for the corn on the cob? Alright, that last one might be a little extreme; but over the past several months, I’ve noticed a softer market for Epic consultants than, say, last year at this time. How much softer? It’s definitely not butter in August soft, but maybe butter in October . . .
So what’s happening out there? Let’s start with a quick jaunt down memory lane. I joined the Healthcare IT industry as a Business Development Manager and Recruiter in 2009 several months before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) went into effect in 2010. In 2008 when I was still thinking and interviewing for the position in Healthcare IT, one of the recruiters in the group said, “do it [join the group]; it’s so easy,” meaning it’s easy to fill consultant positions at clients. I remember clearly that our Healthcare IT division always exceeded its revenue and gross margin goals despite the 2008 economic downturn.
So yeah . . . sounds like a lock, right? Eh, nope! Enter 2010 when ARRA and with it Meaningful Use (MU) incentives hit the Healthcare IT industry. And WHAM, there’s not an Epic consultant in sight! Prior to 2010, Epic sold approximately 10 new clients per year and after 2010, Epic sold an average of 30 new customers a year. Caveat, this data was not scientifically gathered, but is my conclusion based on Epic User Group Meeting (UGM) attendance and information I’ve gathered from speaking with hundreds of Epic consultants over the past five years. However, via a hearsay report from this year’s Epic UGM, I heard that Epic’s new customers are down by around 50% this year. Again, that’s hearsay and does seem a little high.
Because a hospital customer cannot purchase consulting services directly from Epic, customers rely on external consulting and staff augmentation firms for implementation assistance. So here’s where the shortage came in; between 2010 and 2013 as Epic went through their sales boom, the employment and consultant market struggled to keep pace. The industry experienced waves of under qualified consultants entering the marketplace and similarly, new consulting/staffing firms popping up everywhere. I heard countless stories from customers that had terrible experiences with consulting firm recruiters who didn’t understand, say, the difference between an Informaticist and an Analyst. Those same horror stories were relayed about hiring an under qualified consultant who, perhaps, had achieved an Epic certification, but only had six months of build experience.
Fast forward to today. The Epic consulting market has caught up, and dare I say, surpassed the hospital-demand for consultants. I’m hearing from many hourly consultants that are struggling to find their next contract when it was just six months to a year ago when their inboxes were full of contract opportunities. Hence, our market might be softening butter.
Is the Epic implementation wave over? No way! There are lots more to go, but if you are a consultant out there, you might start to think of 2011 as the good ol’ days of summer.