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No Health IT Workforce Exec for Over Half of Non-Acute Providers

In contrast, 90 percent of hospitals employ some type of health IT workforce executive, such as a CIO or Senior Clinical IT Leader, HIMSS reports.

Health IT workforce

Source: Thinkstock

By Jacqueline LaPointe

- Hospitals and non-acute providers are using significantly different health IT workforce strategies to meet their technological needs, according to the 2019 HIMSS U.S. Leadership and Workforce Survey.

The survey of over 260 health information and technology leaders from provider organizations, vendors, and consulting groups showed over one-half of non-acute providers (53 percent) do not have a health IT leader.

In contrast, approximately 90 percent of hospital respondents said their organization employed at least one information and technology executive. The most common health IT executive roles in hospitals were Chief Information Officers (84 percent of respondents) and Senior Clinical IT Leaders (68 percent of respondents).

“The lack of an executive leader to champion information and technology activities in non-acute provider organizations presents as a significant barrier to the advancement of information and technology capabilities in non-acute provider settings,” the survey stated. “Given the information and technology advances occurring in hospital settings, the absence of information and technology leaders in non-acute provider settings has the potential to widen the gap between these two provider environments.”

Health IT is still a top priority for non-acute providers. Both hospital and non-acute provider respondents ranked cybersecurity, privacy, and security as their top priority for 2019. Improving quality outcomes through health IT was the second highest priority for both provider types, as well.

However, non-acute providers may not have the workforce or financial resources to hire a health IT executive. Ambulatory clinics, long-term organizations, post-acute care facilities, and other non-acute providers tend to be smaller than their hospital counterparts, especially in light of recent healthcare merger and acquisition trends.

The lack of executive health IT leadership in non-acute provider organizations could spell trouble. Executives have the ability to drive transformation and improvements, especially through their budgetary authority.

But hospitals are leading the demand for health IT resources. The survey showed that hospital respondents are anticipating a greater demand for health IT in 2019. Sixty-three percent expect an increase in demand compared to 24 percent the previous year.

Although, non-acute providers are almost as committed as their hospital peers when it comes to boosting their health IT resources. Overall, 59 percent of provider respondents expect to increase demand for health IT resources in 2019. Just nine percent plan to decrease demands, while 20 percent anticipate similar demands.

Additionally, the survey found that the health IT workforces at hospitals and non-acute providers also have very different experiences.

In general, non-acute providers tend to have limited health IT workforce opportunities, meaning they are usually fully staffed and are static in their past and projected staffing efforts. For example, 56 percent of non-acute providers reported being fully staffed in 2019, and most (50 percent) said their health IT workforce stayed the same.

Non-acute providers project a similar outlook for the near future. The majority of respondents (51 percent) anticipate their health IT workforce to stay the same in 2020, while just 26 percent expect an increase and one percent project a decrease.

On the other hand, hospitals say they have room for health IT workforce growth. Just 28 percent of hospital respondents said their organization was fully staffed. Forty-two percent also reported an increase in their health IT workforce in 2019.

In addition, more hospitals intend to increase their health IT workforce in 2020 compared to non-acute providers. Thirty-seven percent plan to increase their workforce.

“The variances in staffing growth trajectories evidenced in the two provider groups considered above, has the potential to produce exceedingly different workplace cultures; a fast-paced environment in hospitals and a fairly stable setting in non-acute organizations,” the survey stated.

“If true, then it is very possible these settings attract health IT workers with remarkably different needs/wants. Provider organizations looking to stabilize their workforce should take these factors into consideration when developing staff recruitment, retention and development strategies.”

Hospitals may be more open to health IT workforce growth because they face additional challenges with recruiting and retaining staff. HIMSS reported that workforce challenges continue to negatively impact hospitals.

The proportion of hospital respondents reporting negative impacts from workforce challenges was consistent for the past three years, remaining at about 50 percent.

Hospital respondents also continue to rely on search agencies to fill positions. About 25 percent of participants stated their organization uses a search agency. The proportion is similar to the 29 percent of hospital respondents in last year’s survey.

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