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Staff scarcities have healthcare CIOs strapped

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Erin McCann, Associate Editor at Health IT News

Respondents also indicated their need for specialists capable of implementing and supporting clinical applications, such as electronic medical records (EMRs) and computerized provider order entry. Some 74 percent of respondents to the CHIME survey indicated they most need clinical software implementation and support staff.

With these numbers only increasing, at the end of the day, Kravitz adds, “Something’s gotta’ give.” Either the CIOs have to recognize that they’re going to have to ask for the help, or the government needs to give them more room to breathe in terms of meaningful use.

Despite the ominous numbers from the report, some CIOs are ahead of the game with meaningful use and are not currently witnessing the sweeping deficits occurring nationwide.

George McCulloch, deputy CIO at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, for example, counts himself lucky. “We’re really far down the road on a lot of technology components,” he says. The Medical Center writes some of their own software and has had certified physician order entry and other advanced health IT systems for 10 years now.

McCulloch says one solution for other struggling CIOs may be to hire experts outside the healthcare industry, particularly for nonapplication-based needs. “On the infrastructure side, we’ve certainly taken people outside the industry,” says McCulloch. He explains that up to 50 percent of IT staff at Vanderbuilt University Medical Center are not from healthcare backgrounds.

Although McCulloch remains relatively unaffected by the staff deficit epidemic, he knows his group is the exception.

Retention of IT staff is also a growing concern among CHIME member respondents. Some 85 percent indicated they were worried about retaining IT staff, compared with only 76 percent in 2010.

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