Health Care Industry Faces Health IT Work Force Shortage


The health care industry is facing a health IT work force shortage as it moves toward electronic health record adoption, HealthLeaders Magazine reports.

Previous studies have estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 new health IT workers will be necessary to effectively manage health IT. However, those predictions came before the federal government allocated nearly $20 billion for health IT implementation in the federal stimulus package. 

David Hunt -- CMO of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's Office of Health IT Adoption -- said the new health IT funding could exacerbate the health IT work force shortage in the short term.

A 2009 American Hospital Association survey found that 25% of responding hospitals do not have the staff or expertise needed to address health IT.

Rick Wade, senior vice president of communications at AHA, said larger health care reform issues have forced hospitals to push health IT staffing to the backburner for the time being.

Where Will Health IT Work Force Come From?

Wade said that the hospital industry believes that the economic decline could provide a new source of experienced IT workers from other industries, such as the financial sector.

John Bosco, CIO of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, said that while other industries could provide the IT work force needed for some areas, such as infrastructure or security, most of those IT workers lack the necessary understanding of health care business.

Alex Rodriquez, CIO at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Kentucky, said health care experience is more important than IT experience. He said, "IT skills can always be augmented with additional training. But you can't sacrifice critical thinking and good communications skills."

St. Elizabeth and other hospitals are turning to their own clinicians for their health IT work force needs (Commins, HealthLeaders Magazine, 10/13).

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