With the federal government's lunge into healthcare information technology last year, there was considerable angst that HIT specialists would be hard to find and expensive to keep, as providers jostled toward the meaningful-use definition that will prompt billions of dollars in federal reimbursements.
For some hospitals, however, that expected shortage failed to materialize.
Deborah Gash, vice president and CIO at Saint Luke's Health System, acknowledges that the Great Recession may have played some role in the Lee's Summit, MO-based provider's 98% to 99% retention rate for its 128 HIT staff. On rare occasions when there is an opening, she is "inundated with resumes."
However, Gash says that Saint Luke's does not rely on bad economic times as a retention strategy. Instead, the 11-hosptial, not-for-profit system has worked hard at employee satisfaction, with retention that is based on competitive compensation, a challenging work environment, and a sense that HIT staff is part of a historic transformation in healthcare delivery in the electronic era and a vital player in the health system's healing mission.
"We have spent a number of our town hall meetings telling them about healthcare reform and the impact it will have on our industry and how HIT is a foundational change agent. They understand that they play an important role in getting us ready for healthcare reform," Gash says.
"For our technologists we have learned that good communication is extremely important to them, understanding how they align with business initiatives. So we work very hard to make sure they understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how it fits into the overall business."
David Perez, vice president and CIO at the 483-licensed-bed Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, CA, also emphasizes the healing mission with his 58 HIT staff members.
For Perez, however, finding qualified HIT staff for the not-for-profit hospital is challenging because of competition from the Los Angeles/Orange County area 120 miles to the west, and because Rancho Mirage is a retirement and resort community in the middle of a desert with triple-digit summer temperatures.