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Study reveals shortage of health IT workers, need for alternatives

A shortage in health IT professionals is prompting medical facilities to consider alternatives.

A shortage in health IT professionals is prompting medical facilities to consider alternatives.

Many industries have been facing a serious skills gap for a while now. While there are plenty of Americans looking for work, there is a shortage of individuals with the skills that today's companies need most. This is a reality that has not escaped the healthcare industry, as a new study reveals a lack of qualified IT workers.

This shortage is a real concern for medical industry CIOs. According to the research conducted by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), 71 percent of respondents fear IT staff shortages will jeopardize future technology projects. This number is up from 62 percent recorded in a 2010 survey.

"Even with two years of focused attention on implementing electronic health records at the nation's hospitals, in response to federal incentives, it's clear that staffing is a significant concern for IT executives," Randy McCleese, CIO at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Kentucky, said in a statement. "Staff needs aren't likely to abate over the next couple of years, as CIOs continue to push to achieve Meaningful Use targets and switch to ICD-10 compliant applications."

But the problem is not limited to large medical centers. Smaller clinics and private practices are facing the same uphill battle. While many facilities are trying to hire from within and train individuals in highly sought-after skills, there are those that simply do not have the time or resources to do so. So what is the answer?

The CHIME study findings indicate that nearly 30 percent of respondents are looking for help from third-party consultants and service providers. Managed IT support allows these organizations to implement EMR and practice management systems, drastically improving overall efficiency.

Not only that, but fixed-fee IT support makes moving toward Meaningful Use standards and ICD-10 affordable, and could qualify them for federal financial incentives sooner rather than later.