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Studies: EHR implementation falling prey to health IT labor shortage

In a health IT labor shortage, IT leaders need to think long term for successful EHR implementation.

The key to overcoming a health IT labor shortage and creating availability and preparedness among health care IT workers for electronic health records implementation lies in being prescriptive, not reactive, two new studies suggest.

In the first, workforce planner TEKsystems Inc. teamed with HIMSS Analytics to survey health organizations' EHR readiness and success. The results mirrored other reports of poor adoption rates: Currently, fewer than half (43%) of the 300 single and multi-hospital organizations and health professionals that HIMSS Analytics interviewed have successfully completed EHR implementation. What's more, nearly two-thirds (64%) believe achieving adoption is a roadblock to implementing EHR effectively.

Their entire focus goes toward just getting the implementation done. Their changes are reactionary. They need to start with a development plan and decide how they're going to make it a reality.

Allen Kriete,
vice president of healthcare services, TEKsystems

Allen Kriete, TEKsystems vice president of health care services, said health IT leaders struggle with adoption because they become fixated on deadlines instead of on training programs that ensure the meaningful use of EHRs.

"Their entire focus goes toward just getting the implementation done. Organizations expect their people to adapt quickly, yet many do not plan for end-user training until late in the effort," Kriete said. "Their changes are reactionary, whether they're to requirements -- new ICD-10 regulations, shifts to [accountable care organizations], EHR adoption -- or market changes due to the labor shortage. They need to start with a development plan and decide how they're going to make it a reality."

Meanwhile, TEKsystems joined employment services organization CareerBuilder for a second study that addressed the overall shape of the IT labor market. A sort of health care IT "state of the union," the survey found two-thirds of health care CIOs experiencing labor shortages, despite training efforts like the ONC's $116 million health IT workforce development program. Moreover, 85% worry about staff retention.

Findings from the HIMSS Analytics and CareerBuilder surveys will be presented at the HIMSS 2013 conference in New Orleans.

As Kriete and data from the HIMSS survey confirm, the two studies are linked. Two-thirds of respondents said finding the right workers with the right skills is the hardest part of successful EHR implementation. More than half struggle with finding the right people to build a training program (57%) or to lead classroom discussions (53%).

"First, organizations have to know what they not only need now, but what they want in the long run. Once this hiring cliff is over, what do they need to be able to do? Do they want to acquire resources from outsourcing or build competencies in-house?" Kriete said. "Then they have to understand what viable candidates want. And ultimately, all that ties back to their ability to train -- how to use those resources effectively."

Kriete said the importance of effective training can't be overlooked, as more than three-quarters of health IT respondents cited these problems as the results of poor EHR training: rework (85%), lack of applicability to real-world scenarios (84%), low levels of user adoption (84%), long learning curves (82%) and inability to leverage the system for meaningful use (77%).

"The studies came back with the majority of people saying, 'I need more information; I'd like training to start earlier; I need more specific training; I'd like to be involved in the building of this curriculum, and I'd like to make sure it maps back to the things we do in our organization day to day,'" Kriete said.

Kriete added that more advanced integration, for example, cloud storage and advanced data analytics, will "definitely become a major factor" in successful EHR implementation as well, but not until deadlines and penalties start kicking in.

"Organizations that don't have the time or resources already in place are going to start sliding toward the back end as we get closer and closer to mandate dates," he said, adding that the work doesn't stop once implementation is complete. "Providing post go-live support is also critical to ensure that end users fully adopt the system."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Jean DerGurahian, editorial director, or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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