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Wake Me Up in October

August 29, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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It’s beginning to feel a lot like a recovery in the job market is imminent. Yes…there are visible signs that the job market is (finally) starting to rebound (can I say wake up?).

I wrote about the downturn over a year ago. It’s been a long time since we have seen visible signs that things are changing. It’s the little things that all add up and get me excited about what lies ahead. Clients are calling again with new search assignments. A good thing. Candidates are stirring around casting a wide net to see what’s out there. Many are tired of wearing multiple hats. Fear seems to be subsiding. Also (very) good.

I watch the market trends and talk to other search colleagues and they too see things finally starting to turn in their respective search firms. I watch (and smile at) the new postings on http://www.HealthcareITCentral.com as I see more and more activity lately. Gwen Darling and I chatted last week about the job market and both asked the same question: Why are many healthcare IT organizations waiting to build a strong bench for the tsunami that lies ahead? We don’t get it. With $20B + earmarked for HCIT starting to flow soon – why wait. It just seems very risky to me to wait much longer given the demands for the skills that will be required – not to mention the mad rush by many organizations at the last minute to acquire top-flight HCIT talent. Don’t wait! C’mon – let’s get going.

According to Execunet’s latest prediction on the job market, the trailing metrics all point to solid job growth beginning in September and into Q4 and beyond. That’s more good news. Let’s face it - It’s been a grueling year, but it looks like things are finally moving in the right direction. I like that. Wake me up in October because it looks like many of us will need rest to get ready for some very busy months as we finally crawl out of our recession cocoon. It’s about time.

I’m ready. Are you?

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Comments

Tim and Gwen,

I'm ready!

There is a strong case for a positive outlook for candidates. All of the issues you shared are real and positive.

For healthcare provider organizations and vendors, the picture is quite different. This is a response to your "We don't get it" comment. There are several challenges for these HCIT employers that aren't addressed by bringing on new executives.

The two biggest are the volatility in what will be required to get a share of the earmarked funds, and, the cash flow issue (the spending starts years before the return.)

Volatility means that the exact requirements needed to get paid on these new initiatives are uncertain. Few organizations have all of: e-Prescribing, CPOE, a patient portal, and the competencies to deliver ICD-10 informed performance metrics. They also lack some of the important guts of interoperability. But more importantly, there isn't a clear path and price tag today to get all of that stuff. That's only marginally impacted by staffing relative to today's levels.

These employers are also both sufficiently seasoned to know that if often takes two to three years (or more) to get a one year plan executed. And it's not for lack of having gifted and talented executives on board. As a provider or vendor, you're at the mercy of the other to deliver their part of the work (products and services). If you staff up and but "the ball" was either not pitched or not caught, you've got a management failure.

If you're a vendor, you're at huge risk of disruptive technologies. It's not just a risk.

If you're a healthcare provider organization, you're at huge risk of further reimbursement cuts from your existing lines of business. That's not just a risk either.

This isn't, however, doom and gloom. My experience matches yours. Smart departments and smaller companies are clearly hiring. They see that there is critical adaptation and relearning that requires top-flight HCIT talent ... and they are hiring. The larger companies have a much different planning challenge.

Tim,

It makes me happy when I see new opportunities posted on Healthcare IT Central, too! Activity is definitely picking up, and that is a very positive sign, for both candidates and employers.

IA: Thanks for taking the time to share your insights from the employer perspective. I can certainly see how your described volatility combined with the timing uncertainties could keep a CIO up at night. One thing's for sure - this is an exciting time to be involved with Healthcare IT!

G.

Insightful Anonymous - You bring up many great points on this topic. As a search professional I know how employers engage us to find talent with specific skill sets - and how difficult this can be at times. My main point is that we have never seen this sort of investment in our industry and companies that wish to take advantage of this opportunity will need to invest in human capital very soon. It's not a question of if - only when. I think some will step out and take calculated risks while others will continue to wait on the sidelines until the picture becomes crystal clear. That could prove to be a very big mistake.

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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