Health

Prepare for U.S. job surge in the health IT field

A hiring surge in health IT should begin in earnest in early 2010. Find out which skills will be in the most demand.

According to Charlotte Huff , writing for workforce.com, with $19 billion dollars earmarked for computerizing the United States' medical records, an IT hiring surge is just around the corner. Experts say such hiring should begin in earnest by early 2010. And since the federal stimulus bill includes financial penalties for facilities that do not comply beginning in 2015, the hiring of IT pros who can install and troubleshoot systems should be fast and furious.

And if you consider that, at present, just 9 percent of hospitals use electronic records on even a limited basis, there's a lot of work to be done.

Of course, many leaders aren't acting until they see what happens with health care reform and the passage of key health IT regulations. But then it appears that it will be full-steam ahead.

What tech groups will be in the most demand? As I said, those who can install systems and those who can troubleshoot those systems will be in demand. Also, security architects will be in demand what with the privacy concerns inherent with storing and sharing personal medical data. Some experts are also saying that cloud computing specialists will be needed in order to store huge amounts of data over the Internet rather than on individual servers.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

20 comments
sam4it
sam4it

What Certifications one needs to take for IT Health Surge

jefflagaya
jefflagaya

As far as I know. IT specialist can be found anywhere. Is it really a big issue to prepare for that incoming trend. Friends and fellows, i think the best to consider is how many workforce we have in this field? Should we stick on this field alone or expand ourselves to what we can do more.

jkameleon
jkameleon

So the USA has to prepare for the surge of mistakenly amputated body parts as well. BTW, this is what our AI professor in the college told us. Him and a couple of guys made an expert system for internal diseases diagnostisc. He collaborated with a couple of MDs. The very moment the expert system became for about percent more accurate than MDs, they immediatelly stopped collaborating, and insidiously torpedoed the project. His comment: "From then on, I collaborated with chess players only. They got much more sporting attitude."

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

I've worked with a number of hospitals and the long and the short is that they don't understand their processes or ownership. IT needs to be cleaned up. Most hospitals need to think of IT as an investment, rather than a cost. If they spend $2 million on IT now, they'd have $10 million in returns simply from fixing their efficiency and letting their workers focus on the patients, rather than all the IT problems. I mean hell, most hospital IT is stuck in the 80's. Even Cleveland Clinic, which is high tech compared to most other hospitals, is stuck in the late 90's. Little things like tossing the beepers, updating to VoIP, integrating Skype (or some softphone), updating their security, updating their apps, allowing single sign on, things like that would make a WORLD of difference....but it costs a lot of money up front.

Tig2
Tig2

I have personally been fighting for the past two plus months to convince the idiots at the hospital we are currently using that I am the appropriate emergency contact person. So far, they still don't get it. This requires me to carry a copy of the SO's Health Care Directive with the handy notarized signature everywhere I go. This bonehead hospital is so terribly proud of their automated systems and yet none of those systems share information with anyone. They even took a picture of him to add to his patient chart but we have on several occasions had to stop staff from administering the wrong procedure because they didn't know who he was. People wonder why I lose sleep? As a former nurse, I personally think that our old redundant processes resulted in significantly better patient care as well as significantly better customer service. In the "new and improved" world, I have had to hand medical personnel his drivers license in order to convince them that they were about to do the wrong thing to the wrong guy. Frankly, I think that's sad. It isn't enough to implement a system. The mandate should be that a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis be done to insure that the medical community implements systems that actually IMPROVE patient care. Automation alone isn't going to cut it. Interoperable systems with solid security that are goal set on improving patient care and management should be the mandate. Unfortunately, without that essential requirement, there will be a whole lot of implementing systems that only partially work and that will need to be managed and maintained by people without the first clue about patient management. The IT people at the hospital are inordinately proud of the systems they have implemented. The problem is that they don't freaking work and simply serve to make the life of the patient and family h*ll. Just what is wanted and needed when one is already managing serious illness. EDIT: typo

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

the great majority of hospitals of any size ARE using EMR - electronic medical records in large portions of the hospital. Maybe this somehow includes tiny hospitals in small towns which skews the figures. Also multi doctor practices tend to be computerized while individual doctors or one/two docs are not nearly as computerized. where I interned (1 doc) we had EMR, had paid a bundle for it and were not using it. (various valid reasons) EMR software / hardware bundles now are even sold via wal-marts (with installation by dell), and no, is not $349, is more like 25,000 with $15,000 each addl doc. there are zillions of emr and patient record related software products for all kinds of practices. there are magazines on managing physician offices, which review and rate these. However you will not be hired by a one up practice to sit around and reset the router or reboot PCs. you might get a job with software company, the bigger ones like epic will get more sales. drs dont want to deal with expensive customizations for them unless you are on the level of a hospital and customizations are things like interfacing to cat scan images databanks, etc.

JFTierney.KJMC.CIS
JFTierney.KJMC.CIS

This surge not only requires those who are certified IT professionals. Though we need a lot of those. We also need healthcare professionals who can bridge the gap and talk to the end user. I work in healthcare IT. If you looked around my office, those of us on the apps side come from the clinical areas. For the most part we are not certified IT professionals. We have received training in how to customize and implement the various systems from the vendors. We do our best to mediate between the users and the vendor's application staff. Often telling the vendor that good is not always good enough. As to Ed's observation, I feel you pain. Problem is no one system meets all clinical areas needs. We try our best to implement best of breed and get them to talk to each other. My point is we also need the not so technical people.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Having had surgery in the last five weeks I can attest that the health field needs some serious help. Their systems are some kind of flashback; green screens, client-sever and web applications all intermingled. Each system is an island, no one system talks with another. Paper is everywhere, as is the necessity of re-keying information in the individual systems. It is absolutely amazing that anything ever gets done.

LouCed
LouCed

PMP for project development, for security and HIPAA look at HIPAA Academy (http://www.hipaaacademy.net/). CISA is also a good bet. Then there is the usual list of suspects, MS, CISCO, Etc.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

To compound matters, because the industry has such a diminished view of IT, the prospects for advancement were zero at a former employer. This may change, but not soon enough for me to stick it out any longer.

LouCed
LouCed

I think the main clue needed is to have a central decision making body. Multiple IT solutions for different areas (Lab, Radiology, Med Recs, etc), that cannot talk to each other, a blend of UNIX, Windows, Mainframe apps, all with different logins and seperate user account settings, different password requirements, propriatary protocols. Makes for a nightmare to administer.

TNT
TNT

The health care industry needs to be evaluated like the retail industry. There are multiple POS systems to meet the needs of all sizes of businesses. The health care industry needs some standardizing is all. Just take a look at its basic needs: document libraries, document control, remote monitoring, image cataloging and repository, wireless accessibility of information... It's not rocket science. SharePoint meets most of the needs. Granted it needs some customization for each hospital but it gets you 80% of the way there for free. It would be nice if medical monitoring equipment could be put on the network. Pull up a devices IP address and see everything the monitor's display has: heart rate, bp, etc. A lot could be done. It might even end up saving money in the long run... That's helath care reform I could get behind.

ccolucci
ccolucci

I have been working in healthcare IT only a short time after coming from other industries. Your comments nailed it. It's like stepping back in time 30 to 50 years.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

The other major problem is that the doctors are afraid of change...God forbid you actually bring in new technology...

ben@channells
ben@channells

In Britain there has been a NHS Care Record Services being developed over the last 4 years. Expected cost in 4 years time is ?12 Billion, but expected to cost ?20 billion to get it working and delivery with quality and security. As with many UK government IT programs its running 4 years late, loss of data at hospitals during migrations and virus infections (computer). Where in the US you have HIPPA we have IGSoC and BS7799. If you are looking are large staffing numbers, the NHS now has more managers than doctors and consultants. Even the companies providing the support, managers out number the IT staff. The UK is split in to 7 zones with nearly all the development staff being Indian developers, low skilled but lots of staff ie 1000 per zone. Most of the apps are ground up written rather than using COTS health packages like Cerner's products. Not only are the packages already available and considerably cheaper + stable + compliant. Many of the packages like RiO, Solis, GraphNet doing patient administration systems already offer more functions and features than is proposed by the NHS system. The NHS system is being developed in an Agile environment i.e. "chaos" and part delivery in many phases. Few hospitals have been converted with massive data loss system down for day on end. 70% have rejected the systems and reverted to 15 year old IT systems plus refused to pay for failed work. But the idea is SO good the Canadian government and Singapore government are considering there own IT health systems or already being done. The main reason the NHS systems is late is the contracts are created and decide what is to be done but the hospital needs are different and approve the payments. i.e. civil service verses health care professionals. Quality standards like Six Sigma and ITIL best practice, CMMI, CCRA, EAL are used but often sacrificed to meet the government set delivery dates

frwohl
frwohl

At the University Hospital/Health System where I work we do have systems that talk to each other thanks to lots of ongoing IT effort. We have had CPOE at my hospital since 1989. Residents expect it and attendings mainly let the residents interact with the various systems. However, even with standards and practices to restrain non IT folks from buying and implementing their own programs; grant and research funds allow end-arounds that often eventually get supported by IT. Our users have way too many passwords but some of our systems have limits on what password format we can enforce. If we can agree on standardized data and are careful about what we accept from the vendors we may be able to rein our data into some overarching interface instead of our current conglomeration of separate systems such as PACS, lab, medical records, cardiology, CPOE and charting, billing, registration, scheduling, pharmacy, OR, transport, housekeeping, and whatever I'm leaving out. Most of those have their own icon and user log in. At least a few require the user's Windows ID and password. I can't disagree with doctors and administrators that want a more modern approach but limited resources has meant keeping old apps running. If we implement new applications with patients in mind won't most systems solve these issues with interoperability, sanity, and efficiency a priority? As a clinical application trainer I see many of the systems as used by different types of staff. Patient safety is the number 1 priority, getting a system that improves it will require a lot more than hardware and software. Every user needs to have their workflow thought through so that using a system becomes easier than what it replaced. Training is mandatory where I work, I can't imagine throwing doctors, nurses, techs, etc, into a busy clinical environment without preparing them for it. Yet, I hear all the time about the last facility a user came from and how little assistance was available. In short, technology is only useful when it's harnessed to meet specific needs. A lot of an EMR is merely automation. The real gain is in the area of what wasn't possible before. Bringing up a patient's test results whenever and wherever necessary (in a safe, secure way) can save lives and money. We are so far away from this due to costs but also a lack of will to give up some control in favor of the greater good. Each entity should certainly make decisions about what to buy and how to implement but what about making sure all players like hospitals, doctor?s offices, EMTs, and outpatient testing, can share patient data?

Tig2
Tig2

Unquestionably, that is the genesis of the problem. Compounding it is that there is- because of the lack of interoperability- a requirement that a human transfer information between systems. This means a point of failure. Charting is SUPPOSED to happen at the moment and in the patient's room but that doesn't happen. Instead, the nurse makes a note and charts at end of shift. I don't take issue with that- I did the same thing when I was on a unit- but because the charting happens later, the information isn't always available to the doc on rounds. For observation charting, that might be okay. For things like vitals, it really isn't. Add to this that nurses are there to provide patient care, not manage the system. Most of them have little to no interest in learning how to use the system beyond the bare basics required to do the job. If the system crashes, the nurse isn't able to do anything more than call IT. IT isn't always a 24/7 role in the hospital environment. Again, data can get lost and important things missed. Finally, there is the larger issue of the mistaken belief that the computer is somehow infallible. When the patient has to object strenuously to being given the wrong procedure, that should be a tip-off to a greater problem. Healthcare professionals need to work in concert with IT. IT needs to recognize that they need this input. And as you say, LouCed, a single decision maker needs to drive the effort from the top.

LouCed
LouCed

But IT is a cost they don't like paying. In my experience, many managerial level Drs just see nothing other than anoyance from IT systems. They prefer paper, and since IT does not bring in money, they feel it is a wasted cost.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

There are federal regulations. Failure to comply will result in not getting paid, so IT will bring in money. It's too bad that many companies feel that IT is just overhead, a cost that can only be cut. Most of those companies never learn better. The few that do only learn when they're blindsided by a competitor that is leaner and faster due to IT. However, at that time they usually blame their threadbare IT department for their problems, so maybe they actually learned nothing at all.

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