The shortage will hit hardest among providers who are just now ramping up for EMRs, Sripada says.
“It’s like a bell curve, with those who have already done a fair amount of implementation on the far right, and those who have been waiting for the right opportunity on the left,” Sripada says. “An organization like Beaumont that has been doing this for a while might feel the effects of the shortage less than others, but those just starting will be most disadvantaged, more so than the average provider.”
That prediction is seconded by Jack Wolf, chief information officer for Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
“The timeline for some hospitals is going to stretch out. I think we’re going to see fewer hospitals able to meet the requirements in 2011 or even 2012,” he says. “We’re going to see a lot of hospitals falling to the latter years for qualifying.”
Finding healthcare IT staff is difficult because the person must be familiar with clinical processes as well as being expert in the technical aspects of the particular EMR system used by the provider, Sripada notes.
Beaumont is turning to in-house training of its own clinical staff, creating its own IT experts when not enough can be found elsewhere. The health system has a program called Beaumont University that is available to employees to assist in certification and continuing education in many fields, and now employees can be trained as IT professionals. To assist with the IT training, Beaumont partners with two community colleges, and senior IT staff from the health system teach classes.
“We’re putting together some IT courses that will help those folks who are clinicians now and have an IT bent of mind or, for whatever reason, want a change in mid-career,” he says. “We can take their clinical domain expertise and teach them IT, leveraging them for the organization.”