Health care providers struggle to recruit experienced IT workersNews added by Benefits Pro on April 12, 2013

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By Amanda McGrory-Dixon

Sixty-seven percent of U.S. health care providers are struggling to recruit experienced information technology professionals, according to a recent Towers Watson survey.

When it comes to finding Epic-certified professionals, the problem is even greater, with 73 percent of respondents saying they have trouble hiring those workers. Epic-certified workers have specialized skills required to meet new electronic medical record mandates as part of health care reform.

“Hospitals have an urgent need for experienced, highly skilled IT professionals to ensure they can meet new government requirements and qualify for financial incentives,” said Heidi Toppel, senior rewards consultant in Towers Watson’s hospital industry group.

“In addition, the ability to share patient care information and records accurately and seamlessly with a range of other providers will be essential to achieving patient satisfaction and quality-of-care outcomes in a more integrated approach to health care delivery.”

Specifically, the survey reveals that respondents have misconceptions regarding employee attraction to health care organizations.

A previous Towers Watson survey found that health care workers consider job security, competitive base pay, health care benefits, convenient work location and career advancement opportunities as the main reasons for taking a job offer with a health care provider.

Despite this, other than job security, health care employers do not take into account these factors for attracting IT and Epic-certified employees. Rather, health care employers believe offering challenging work is the primary attraction driver. Base salary is considered the eighth factor in attraction.

“The stark differences between the factors that employers believe attract IT employees and those that employees themselves say attract them are quite surprising,” said Laurie Bienstock, North American rewards leader at Towers Watson.

“What’s clear is that employees are focused on the practical while employers are focused on the developmental. The good news is that the vast majority of employers are taking steps to close the talent gap and seek more balance in their employee value proposition and rewards program.”

Another 55 percent of respondents report taking a minimum of three measures to confront attraction and retention problems with IT professionals. The survey finds the most effective measures are increasing base pay rates, offering retention bonuses, and providing additional education and training.

“Given the importance of a competitive salary in attracting IT and Epic professionals, health care providers should take whatever steps they can to meet this need,” Toppel said. “But focusing on money is only part of the solution.

"Presenting career and growth opportunities remains important as well, and savvy employers will create as comprehensive a program as possible. Our data confirm that IT recruiting in the health care industry is a matter of striking the right balance between the practical needs of workers today and the longer-term goal of helping an industry transform itself for a different future.”

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