Hospitals compete for IT talent with funding at stake

Health care providers in the U.S. are encountering a lack of qualified candidates as they race to meet federal government deadlines for EHR (electronic health record) and health IT use.

The challenge, medical CIOs say, is to find enough IT staff who can help hospitals and medical practices migrate from paper records to EHRs and manage the large amount of patient data generated from practicing medicine. At stake is US$25 billion in funding allocated in 2009 by the , for spending on EHRs and health IT. Medical providers will be compensated for the cost of the systems if they meet criteria by certain dates, with coming in the next six months.

With the government spending almost as much as the health care industry's total value of $27 billion, "you can imagine there's going to be a fair amount of hiring," said John Halamka, a doctor at and CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

To manage his hospital's EHR rollout, Halamka opted to outsource the task to a firm that specialized in EHR implementation and practice transformation.

"You will see a combination of approaches," he said. "Some may seek services from vendors, others outsource to groups. We'll figure out a logical way to leverage staff. Having every hospital hire their own is probably not going to happen."

Halamka determined that cloud computing best met the hospital's health IT needs and developed a private cloud. This required staff to support the cloud's infrastructure, and he hired workers with backgrounds in database development, wireless networking, security and server administration.