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Survey Reveals High Demand for HIT Workers

Better training programs and the Office of the National Coordinator’s (ONC) Workforce Development Program need to help fill the large employment gap in the HIT workforce, according to a recently released issue brief based on the results of eHealth Initiative’s 2011 Survey of Health Information Exchanges.
The federal government estimates that the healthcare system may need upwards of 50,000 additional employees to develop, implement, and maintain HIT in the near future. In light of this projection, results from the survey of 196 health information exchange (HIE) initiatives show a growing need for workers proficient in HIT. Though more than one-half of respondents indicated that their organization was small, 58 said that they currently have vacant staff positions. Fifty-five reported that they are short on staff with IT experience. “With organizations this small, even having a single vacancy can represent a significant loss of productivity,” said Jennifer Covich Bordenick, eHealth Initiative’s CEO.

The ONC’s Workforce Development Program represents a strong foundation to address this deficiency within the industry. Tasked with launching and improving HIT programs at colleges and universities across the country, the program seeks to train thousands of HIT professionals over the next few years. Yet, the survey results demonstrate that many HIEs have not yet begun hiring from the program. Instead, some have turned to consultants to fill the gaps in their workforce, with 62% of initiatives that faced a shortage of IT staff planning to hire consultants.

“Results from this year’s survey show that the stimulus funds accomplished their goal by creating new jobs in health technology,” said Covich Bordenick. “Clearly there is a great demand for health IT professionals today, with so many HIEs reporting staff vacancies. Unfortunately, the current system is unable to meet that demand. We need to reassess and fine-tune training programs and curriculum so that we can produce the types of workers that HIEs need.”

Key findings from the issue brief include the following:

• There are large numbers of new job opportunities available at organizations focused on exchanging healthcare data.

• Jobs remain open due to a lack of qualified candidates with IT experience.

• Organizations are using consultants to get the work done.

• Very few respondents have hired graduates from the ONC Workforce Development Program.
The eHealth Initiative Issue Brief "How the HITECH Act is Helping Generate Jobs in Health Information Technology" is available for free at www.ehealthinitiative.org.
Source: The eHealth Initiative