Report finds shortage of HIT expertise

Health information technology bolsters a blossoming business agenda, a regimen more than 80 percent of organizations plan to invest in during 2013, according to a PwC Health Research Institute (HRI) report. But while HIT interests are booming, the worker expertise necessary to rein in such demand is sorely lacking.

The report, “Solving the talent equation for health IT,” finds that the shortage of professionals with specified health IT capabilities and business acumen is more robust than previously assumed, and that organization heads are keenly aware of the deepening HIT pit.

"The challenge for healthcare is not just a shortage of people with technical skills. It's also a shortage of people with the skills to marry technological savvy with business strategy as healthcare becomes more connected, coordinated and accountable," said Daniel Garrett, principal and PwC's Health Information Technology practice leader, in a prepared statement. "Despite billions of dollars spent investing in HIT, the lack of qualified professionals could slow progress toward quality and efficiency. The benefits of HIT will not be realized until organizations can ensure information is unlocked and integrated in a way to best inform critical business and clinical decision-making."

Of the healthcare executives and practice leaders surveyed, 51 percent admitted to concerns regarding the ability of current staff to keep in stride with technological advances. What’s more, 77 percent said they are in the process of revisiting hiring and promotion strategies as a means to spackle the widening holes in health IT management. 

Approximately three quarters of those queried (75 percent) noted that the hiring of more workers to support their health IT systems stems partially from the desire to avoid requirement penalties in place for complex technological infrastructures, such as electronic health records. Clinical informaticists, responding providers vied, are the workers most able to achieve this aim — thus, the competition to acquire the particular brand of employee is rising in intensity.

From the insurers' perspective, HRI analysts found that 54 percent of the payers questioned had acquired another organization within the past 12 months — a result closely related to industry consolidation and the corresponding need to integrate systems and data between freshly yolked entities. A majority of insurers placed systems and data integration skills as paramount for health IT priorities; 70 percent subscribed to the belief that informatics and data analytics skills would be most important to secure in new hires over the next three years.

Meanwhile on the biopharmaceutical front, the report found that in developing advanced systems to meet hybridizing care models, drug and device companies are joining forces with clinical research organizations (35 percent) and academic medical research centers (31 percent) as a cost-effective means to a tech-progressive end, reducing the lofty price of research and development.

The report’s other key findings include:

  • Healthcare companies are increasingly borrowing technology specialists from other industries.
  • Insurers ranked systems and data integration skills as most important to meeting HIT priorities and 89 percent think it is very important to have employees trained to integrate and analyze data from various sources.
  • Drug and device companies need a new set of tech skills to support emerging methods of conducting research and the need to prove the value of drugs to public and private purchasers. Thirty-nine percent believe it is important for new hires to be skilled in health economics outcomes research.
  • Healthcare providers (62 percent) are concerned about skill availability.

"The IT organization remains the critical connector to delivering real-time data and metrics to make smarter business decisions," Garrett concluded. "Despite differing IT priorities, general IT staffing needs across the industry reflect a shared goal of improved health outcomes — particularly as payment shifts from a fee-for-service model that rewards value over volume."

Find the report in its entirety here.