Tech Recruiting an Ongoing Struggle for Health Information Exchanges

    Amid all the hullabaloo in health reform about information sharing among providers to provide the “big picture” of each patient in one digital place, little attention has focused on the people required to make that happen.

    A new report from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) aims to shed some light on that. It studied job postings for health information exchanges (HIEs) and interviewed 35 exchanges that are up and running.

    Not surprisingly, it found that recruiting the necessary tech talent is an ongoing challenge. These are small organizations – survey participants on average had fewer than a dozen employees – and the report mentions the many ways in which they resemble startup businesses. They can be financially shaky with employees filling multiple roles and at times figuring it out as they go along.

    The organizations used a combination of full-time, part-time, on-site contract and outsourced workers. Not surprisingly, the skills most difficult to find tend to be on contract or outsourced.

    In order of demand, these organizations’ technical needs were:

    1. Data integration, help desk / support
    2. Data integrity, connectivity, software support, business intelligence / reporting
    3. Data quality / compliance, technical project management
    4. Security, specification / design / coding / testing
    5. Payment processing, other

    The survey found only three of the 35 organizations anticipated hiring for security positions, which is pretty scary, since you hear about a new health care security breach almost daily. The report said security hiring is expected to pick up with new federal guidance – and that organizations likely have been trying to build security and privacy compliance in from the beginning.

    At the same time, among organizations seeking specific certifications, project management professional (PMP) and certified information systems security professional (CISSP) ranked near the top. Most technology salaries fell in the $75,000 to $89,999 range.

    Data integration roles stood out as the most difficult to fill, and the most likely to be outsourced. As the report describes these roles:

    The data integration professional must be able to coordinate and integrate data from various sources, identify gaps and omissions, and ultimately formulate proposed data quality, completeness and validation solutions. The data integration professional is a multi-disciplinary resource focused on the development of informatics applications, functioning as the in-house technical [subject matter expert] on existing and emerging technologies. Ultimately, the individual(s) in this role must serve as interpreter and translator, providing effectual synopses of information, presentations and communications for both internal and external audiences.

    No wonder those folks come at a high price.

    An emerging trend noted in the report is hiring from the HITECH Workforce Development Consortiums. These short-term training programs created in the health reform legislation reportedly so far have been slow to catch on with employers.

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