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New program to address lack of HIT staffing resources

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

In a press release yesterday, Stoltenberg Consulting announced the launch of its Junior Consulting Program that would furnish hospitals with qualified health information technology (HIT) professionals. A spokesperson for the firm emphasized the call for a “basis to support lack of resources” in many of the hospitals across the country, a perceived “sweet spot in the health industry.”

The firm’s program comes at just the right time. As we reported this morning, the American Hospital Association pointed to “limited vendor capacity and workforce shortages” as major obstacles in the way of attaining and attesting to meaningful use under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs. Without knowledgeable staff, eligible professionals (EPs) and hospitals will struggle to implement EHR systems while at the same time maintaining a high level of patient care.

In February, a Texas State University–San Marcos report on employer needs for health information technology staff (HIT) estimated a growing need of 10,000 HIT professionals in the state. While some overlap exists between HIT and IT generally, the former must be more cognizant of government regulations (e.g., HIPAA, HITECH), clinical workflows, meaningful use, and other unique challenges involved in the adoption and sustained use of EHRs. Top on the list of barriers in the way of hiring HIT staff are:

• “lack of access to qualified candidates” (76%),
• “turnover in a competitive market” (71%), and
• “lack of a well-defined HIT career ladder” (67%).

Not only is staffing HIT a challenge for recruiters, but it is also difficult for healthcare providers to retain qualified staff. To mitigate these barriers, the report recommends a “collaborative effort between employers, education providers, public organizations, and others to develop and implement a plan of action.”

Having been in business for 18 years, Stoltenberg is responding to this growing need in US hospitals. It’s program will provide these organizations with well-trained HIT professionals for a term of one year after which hospitals have the opportunity to offer junior consultants permanent positions. The firm will draw candidates from backgrounds and undergraduate programs in software engineering, IT, health management systems, and other related fields. Participants in the program will receive training on HIT solutions from major vendors (e.g., Epic, Cerner, Siemens Soarian) to become valuable members of hospital staff overseeing the integration of EHRs, computer physician ordering entries (CPOEs), electronic prescribing (eRX), and whatever else appears along the path to health information exchange (HIE).

Given the limits placed on Regional Extension Centers (RECs) to give priority to small practices, programs like Stoltenberg’s Junior Consulting Program should help address the most serious resource shortage in hospitals today, people. It’s seems like that more such initiatives to create HIT professionals and staffing opportunities will continue to emerge.

Related Articles:

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• CPOEs and the need for testing health IT
• Creating the next generation of health IT professionals

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