The re-election of President Obama means the federal mandates associated with healthcare reform aren’t going away. Initiatives within healthcare organizations that have been a boon to IT hiring are still in play.
Though the industry got a reprieve with the delay of the new ICD-10 coding system until 2014, healthcare organizations still face unforgiving deadlines to meet “Meaningful Use” and other regulations.
The healthcare industry’s IT staffing needs continue to grow. More than two-thirds of healthcare executives reported IT talent shortages in a survey released in September by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), up from 59 percent in 2010.
Seventy-four percent said they need implementation and support staff for clinical systems such as electronic health records and computerized physician order entry, 47 percent said they need infrastructure staff, and 45 percent reported needing business software implementation and support staff.
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Yet, the industry so prizes experience within healthcare that making the switch from other industry sectors isn’t easy. The short time frames mean most organizations need IT pros who can hit the ground running.
“They’ve procrastinated, and now their needs are so specific that the people they hire have to know specific applications, specific technologies, specific certifications to really add value,” said Mike Bunch, managing director of staffing firm CTG Health Solutions. “Most organizations aren’t in a position to bring somebody in and train them.”
A strategy to make the switch should focus on getting into the organization, Bunch says, which comes down to marketing your transferrable skills. Getting hired might require a lateral move or even a step down, he says.
“Most organizations want to hire from within. . . . They’re looking within their own IT staffs to figure out who could help with some of these more advanced applications. My advice is to focus on getting into a hospital IT shop—and you do that by having a transferable skill like C+ programming or network applications or a specific software package like Lawson, some application that could be used across industries. Once you get hired by the hospital, you have an inside track into those internal opportunities that require Epic, Cerner, McKesson and others.”
Hospitals have billing systems, payroll systems, and materials management systems that apply in banking, manufacturing and other industries. Research how technology you know from the products of big players such as Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle are used in healthcare settings. Patient data security and infrastructure security are hot topics and transferrable skills.
“The easiest switchovers would be on the infrastructure side,” says George McCulloch, deputy CIO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and CHIME board member. “If you’re a DBA; in servers, either physical or operating system; storage—that shouldn’t be hard. Support should be an easy one. It’s harder on the front end if you don’t know the business and you don’t know the tools.”
A few other ideas might help you make the switch:
- Bring in mobile and wireless technology skills. Hospitals are introducing tablets and myriad other wireless devices, so they need skills in areas such as Android, iOS, wireless networking, voice-recognition systems and bar-code technology.
- Sign on with a consultancy or as a contractor. Respondents to the CHIME survey cited relying on third parties as their most common way to deal with their talent shortages. Some healthcare IT consultancies reportedly have been running “boot camps” to get their own work forces up to speed. Contract-to-hire positions offer a good way to prove yourself.
- Check out opportunities with their vendor partners.
- Volunteer. Local healthcare organizations and physician practices generally don’t have in-house IT skills for the systems they’re implementing. But that volunteer effort needs to cover weeks or months to demonstrate to employers some understanding of how the system fits into work flow.
- User groups can help you learn about healthcare technology and how major vendors’ products are used in that sector.
It’s essential on your resume and in interviews to draw clear lines between your current experience and the organization’s needs, Bunch said.
“People need to be very specific in drawing parallels of their current technology experience, the depth and breadth of it,” he said. “Not just use a bunch of buzzwords, but articulate their experience with specific [technology] … how have you used it, where have you used it, how much have you used it.”
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