There were plenty of jobs in health IT in 2011, but employers were being ultra selective
The new health IT jobs that were promised as part of the government’s big push toward digital medical records are there, and there are plenty of job seekers to fill them, but are they the right people for the jobs?
Maybe not, recruiters who specialize in the sector told Healthcare IT News in May – at least not yet.
Hospitals, healthcare systems and physician practices are very particular about the skills and experience they want, said Betsy Hersher, president and founder of Hersher Associates in Deerfield, Ill.
Not only are employers looking for IT professionals with experience in healthcare, but they’re seeking experience with a particular vendor’s technology – Epic or Meditech, for example.
“Whether it’s an outside recruiter, or internally, everybody bangs their fist on the table and says: ‘We must have exactly this,’” said Hersher.
“We’re hiring a heck of a lot of very specialized clinical people,” she said. “I mean someone who’s done clinical transformation, someone who’s done clinical education, someone who’s put in CPOE, someone who’s put in the EMR. Oh, and it always has to be a specific vendor.”
“The people who are doing the hiring are very focused on vendors,” said Hersher. “But being a good recruiter, if I find the most perfect candidate in the world that walks on water and doesn’t have that system, by the time the client gets through that process, they realize that what they’re getting is the knowledge, and someone who has that knowledge can implement any system.”
Not everyone realizes that they don’t always need such targeted experience, and it almost always takes some coaxing, said Eric Marx, vice president of healthcare IT services for IT staffing and recruiting firm Modis, with 70 offices across the country.
Top of mind among healthcare employers today is the push to meet many deadlines at once, he said, such as conversion to HIPAA 5010 and ICD-10, along with efforts to qualify for government incentives by proving meaningful use of health IT. Employers are looking for someone who is already up to speed.
“We know we have a shortage,” Marx said. “We know the right people are difficult to find. But again, back to the idea of the deadlines with significant incentives and penalties potentially looming here, there’s really not a luxury of bringing someone in that doesn’t have the exact skill sets you need.”
Marx said he expects employers will change their approach, though, once they’ve met some of their deadlines.
“Right now what I’m seeing is the pain is not yet high enough for them to make a lot of creative alternative staffing plans,” he said. “So instead they’re basically just engaging in the war.”
That means healthcare organizations are willing to pay a premium to get precisely what they want.
Once some hurdles are cleared, Marx predicts, employers will become more willing to bring in some more general IT people from other industries and have a little more time to ramp them up with the clinical side.
“They’re going to have to do it if they’re going to keep their cost down,” he said. The approach they are taking now is not sustainable in the long run.
Meanwhile, the right people who happen to be in the right place at the right time can command a higher than usual salary – perhaps 10 percent to 20 percent above the usual market rates, said Marx.
“Healthcare remains a consistent growth industry in the U.S.,” said John Burkhardt, managing director of MedZilla.com, a website for professionals and employers in pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical sales, biotechnology, science and medicine.
“It’s not just doctors and nurses, though, that are benefiting,” he said. “As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – healthcare reform – comes closer to its final effective date in 2014, information technology roles will continue to grow in both scope and number. People who never thought they’d be getting jobs in healthcare might someday be reporting to hospitals or medical technology firms.”