Do-It-Yourself IT Solutions

Greg Freeman for HealthLeaders Media , November 8, 2011
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This article appears in the October 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Healthcare providers are spending billions to implement EMRs, but progress toward meaningful use is being stymied by a severe shortage of tech professionals who are qualified to set up and maintain these complex systems—and to support the clinicians and staff who use them.

Several efforts are under way to address the shortage for the entire industry, but most of those will not yield benefits any time soon.

In April, HHS awarded $144 million to colleges and universities to create training programs, but some in the industry are skeptical that the programs—some of which can be completed in six months or less—will produce highly skilled workers. Even the better-quality programs won’t turn out techs soon enough to avoid meaningful use delays for most providers.

Relying on vendors to train your staff for IT work on their systems isn’t getting strong reviews either. In the January HealthLeadersMedia Intelligence Report, E-Health Systems: Opportunities and Obstacles, less than half of respondents said they were strongly (18%) or somewhat (30%) satisfied with vendor training and support for their hospital-based electronic health systems. The results were nearly identical (16% and 30%) for those with clinic- or physician practice–based EHS.

For the healthcare leader who needs IT staff now, solutions may have to
be homegrown.

Beaumont Health System, based in Royal Oak, MI, is typical of many providers facing the IT shortage. Beaumont’s IT department staffs 300 positions, but it typically has about six openings, says Subra Sripada, senior vice president and chief information officer. Still, that is on the low end of the industry standard of 5% to 10% shortfalls, he says.

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