Healthcare Firms Struggling to fill IT Positions

April 23, 2013

Employment is relatively strong nationwide, and those with credentials in the technology sector are finding jobs with ease, for the most part. But there's still one troubling issue that needs to be resolved in the IT jobs world in the months ahead – health care firms in the United States are having trouble filling positions with IT officials, according to recent research.

Towers Watson surveyed over 100 healthcare providers and found that 67 percent are having problems attracting experienced IT employees. Even among those who have found solid professionals, keeping them is another issue – 38 percent of firms expressed having problems with retention.

Heidi Toppel, a senior rewards consultant in Towers Watson's hospital industry group, identified a number of troubles currently facing the healthcare industry, with the attraction and retention of tech professionals chief among them.

"Hospitals have an urgent need for experienced, highly skilled IT professionals to ensure they can meet new government requirements and qualify for financial incentives," Toppel said. "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."

More talent needed
How does the United States address this problem? Many theories abound, but primarily, it appears to be a supply and demand issue. The demand for IT professionals is sky-high because firms continue to increase their technology use, but the supply is low because the American education system isn't turning out enough graduates with the requisite tech skills.

An editorial in the Spokane Spokesman-Review presents one idea on how to tackle the issue in the long-term – Washington can fill tech jobs faster by investing more money in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Some institutions of higher learning are even turning away students interested in tech degrees because the schools lack the classrooms or teachers required to support them. With more attention and more funding, the government can rectify this issue.

Towers Watson's survey found that 55 percent of healthcare firms polled are taking at least three different measures to address their IT job issues. Among their strategies are pay raises, retention bonuses and additional education and training. But the support can't come from the firms alone. If America is to address its IT jobs gap, the effort must come from the education system, bringing more talent to an industry that desperately needs it.