In a piece at InformationWeek, Marianne Kolbasuk McGee likens health IT pros to Cinderella: They've suddenly become the belle of the ball.
With the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) electronic health record incentive programs up and running, no longer is there just a carrot in the move toward digitized records, but also a stick, with penalties for those who fail to use EHRs by 2015. CIO.com points out that four key deadlines loom in the next six months.
The HITECH Act allotted more than $100 million for training in health IT, in university-based programs such as those offered by the University of Minnesota-led consortium, which I featured a few months ago, as well as community-college-based programs. Even so, a shortage of skilled health IT pros is expected. McGee points to some fairy dust sprinkled on that career path:
According to those quoted in the CIO.com article, health organizations won't really benefit from the stimulus-funded training programs for a while, so the big talent crunch is taking place now. For many, that means turning to outside service providers.
It quotes John Halamka, a doctor and CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, describing the challenge this way:
I need an analyst who really understands how it is you can take a paper-based office environment and then move it to this new world of using electronic records because it isn't just digitizing paper. So they really have to understand how do you leverage the technology and change processes in order to move doctors from what they may have been doing for 30 years to a new world. You understand what the EHR does. You understand how tablets, printers and iPads are part of the equation.