Workforce training and allocation for modernization of HIT

The most recent issue of Hospital Pharmacy (Vol 45, No 1, 2010) has an article by Fox and Felkey that discusses the demand that the ARRA will place on the current and future HIT workforce. According to the article “the workforce to shepherd implementation, training, and support [for the modernization of heath care delivery] simply does not exist today; consequently, we could face a situation where health systems and clinics are financially ready to adopt HIT but do not have the personnel to carry it out.” I believe this is absolutely true and have alluded to it in the past (here and here).

More importantly, the shortage of HIT personnel will be further exacerbated by the need for clinicians to enter the technology field. The article supports this thinking by saying that “some experts have suggested that clinically-trained individuals are more suited to the design, selection, implementation, and management of HIT because they have a fundamental understanding of the processes of health care delivery. Alternatively, individuals trained in IT are more technically inclined, but lack firsthand experience with health care delivery systems” Another truism and a problem that is certainly not unique to the HIT field. Companies like Microsoft, Google, GE, Siemens, etc hire pharmacists and other clinician for their unique experience in the health care industry.
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University of Missouri Health Care outsourcing IT resources?

Columbia Tribune: “Cerner talks confirmed by officials – University of Missouri Health Care is now negotiating with the Kansas City-based Cerner Corp., administrators have confirmed. MU Health information technology workers have been worried for months that their jobs could be outsourced to Cerner, considered one of the leading health information technology providers. Several employees have said supervisors told them different Cerner-related stories, but mostly workers have been kept in the dark. Williamson and Ross said employees would be notified “promptly” if a Cerner agreement is made. The university has a longstanding relationship with Cerner. The company provides hardware products for the hospital and has an educational partnership with the MU School of Medicine.” – The University of Missouri Health Care may not be handling the situation in the most gracious way possible, but I’ve mentioned before that I think outsourcing IT resources is a good idea. It’s simply unreasonable to expect locally developed IT resources to have the same knowledgebase as the IT resources at the company providing the product. And it’s probably cheaper, too.

Oursourcing IT jobs and cloud computing

This morning I posted a quick note about a shortage of qualified IT staff in healthcare. Todd Eury of Pharmacy Resource Technology (PTR) left me an interesting comment that I would like to share with you.

When appropriate – what about strategic IT Outsourcing? IT Management Solutions delivered by U.S. based firms? For example: Opesnet handles IT Outsourced Management Services for LTC Pharmacy Operations. I understand the frustration with the shortage – but this might be an answer in some cases / situations. Reputable firms can provide great value and help contain/ lower costs.

I think this is an excellent idea not only for the IT staffing shortage, but as an answer to difficulties in advancing a cloud computing model in healthcare. It is clear that the shortage will hamper efforts to implement advanced technology in healthcare, and in particular pharmacy. Many IT professionals are grown and educated from within a healthcare system, often limiting their expertise in cutting edge automation and technology. Strategic IT outsourcing offers access to highly trained professionals specializing in models not currently used in the healthcare industry. The idea of outsourcing could also be extended beyond cloud computing to encompass pharmacy information systems, barcoding automation, electronic document management, etc. In other words, leave it to the experts. I love the idea Todd, keep ‘em coming.

Shortage of qualified IT staff

Hospitals and Health Networks: “As if it already weren’t tough enough to find and retain quality health information technology professionals, the recent passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act as part of the Obama administration’s broader economic stimulus package may only make the task more difficult. “We had a shortage of talent before this stimulus was initiated,” says Timothy R. Zoph, chief information officer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “This will exacerbate the problem.” Compounding the issue further is a triple whammy of major IT projects facing every health care organization. Not only is there the HITECH-fueled push for electronic health records, the stimulus law also tightens HIPAA privacy and security requirements, something American Health Information Management Association CEO Linda Kloss calls a “very big challenge.” And already in the works is the transition to ICD-10 coding and the related ANSI X12 5010 electronic transactions.” – I can tell you from personal experience that this is already a big issue. IT departments are struggling to keep up with the limited technology in use by healthcare today; I cannot imagine the future as hospitals continue to adopt more and more advanced technology.