IT Staffing Shortages Stymie Healthcare CIOs

Implementation of electronic health records and eligibility for stimulus funding are likely to be compromised by IT staffing deficiencies in more than half of healthcare organizations, according to CHIME survey results.

IT staffing shortages will put projects at risk and negatively impact healthcare organizations’ chances of implementing EHRs successfully, according to results of a recent CHIME survey.

CIOs who responded to the survey said IT staffing deficiencies will possibly (51 percent) or definitely (10 percent) affect their chances to implement an EHR and receive stimulus funding. The most glaring need for healthcare organizations is for trained personnel who can implement clinical records software.

Sue Schade, VP and CIO, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said working with local colleges will pay dividends down the road, but do little to help the staffing pain of today. “It’s a long-term investment — you’re not going to be able to get people through the training programs that are associated with ARRA funding if they are new to the workforce and have them be really effective in a short period of time.”

Mike Ward, SVP and CIO, Covenant Health, said staff augmentation services will likely yield little relief. “One of the first things I’ve done is try to go to the consulting market, but that also has been challenging. The vendors and consultants are going through the same challenges — there’s a lot of activity, high demand, and what I’m finding is it’s very difficult to find qualified resources. You can hire people, but they just don’t have the experience and the background.”

Robust infrastructure is key to 24/7 uptime in the healthcare field

As such, the CHIME survey found more than 70 percent of respondents reported their organizations lack staff to implement clinical applications. Additionally, CIOs expressed growing concern about retaining current staff as pressures mount to quickly implement clinical systems. Some 76 percent of respondents said they were concerned about retaining current IT staff, while 24 percent said they had no such concerns.

George “Buddy” Hickman, EVP and CIO, Albany Medical Center, said retention strategies must be multi-faceted. “We did some things like surveying the workforce in IS to try to appreciate the sorts of things that would keep them satisfied in the roles they are in, and you’ll not be surprised to know that it’s a lot more than just money.”

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