When the federal government last year made available about $20 billion to incentivize healthcare providers to install interoperable electronic medical records systems, there was anxiety about finding the right people to operate these complex and expensive systems.
The ideal candidate was thought to be a hybrid: a clinician who understood the job demands and requirements of bedside nurses and physicians, and a technician who understood computer systems. It is a rare skill set, and hospitals are reporting varying success in finding the right people.
Denton Arledge, vice president and CIO at WakeMed Health & Hospitals in Raleigh, NC, says his health system’s proximity to the high-tech Research Triangle, some of the best universities in the nation, and the region’s overall desirability have created an adequate supply of qualified computer technicians.
However, Arledge isn’t just looking for computer experts who can’t communicate beyond the walls of their cubicles. “I tell staff and leadership that if you want to be a heads-down techie you need to go work somewhere else,” he says. “We are translators. Our vendors speak technical. Our customers speak clinical. It’s our job to be able to speak both effectively and not just be heads-down technicians.”
“I look for people who have good clinical and communications skills and have an affinity for computers and information systems,” he says. “I look for technical people who have good strong technical skills and who have an affinity for people and how those systems are applied to business. I put them together and I ask my clinical people to learn from my technical people and I ask my technical people to learn from the clinical people. Then you swizzle in the vendor, because they are the subject matter expert on the product you are installing. Engage the vendor in a collaborative fashion and we find it works well.”