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New Survey-Based Report Looks at Staffing and Work-Hours Patterns Among HIT Professionals

March 11, 2017
by Mark Hagland
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Last month, Pivot Point Consulting released a report on trends in hiring, staffing, and work-hours trends among health IT professionals

Last month, the Brentwood, Tenn.-based Pivot Point Consulting released a new report, entitled the “Healthcare IT Market Report 2017: Trends Edition.” In its Feb. 20 press release, published during the annual HIMSS Conference being held in Orlando that week, Pivot Point Consulting’s executives noted that, “Since 2014, the number of healthcare IT (HIT) professionals who reported feeling ‘extremely optimistic’ about their career opportunities increased by 47 percent. That optimism may be fueling their career choices as well, as new research shows that during that time period, HIT contractors and consultants who declined considering a full-time position increased by 25 percent, and the number of full-time employees who would consider consulting has hovered around 70 percent over two years,” the report’s authors noted.

“Greythorn, a healthcare staffing solutions firm, has released market reports for the past five years covering issues of compensation, benefits packages and career motivation. At the end of 2016, the company was acquired and merged with Pivot Point Consulting to form Pivot Point Consulting, a Vaco Company. This year’s market report reflects its new name, and marks the first time historical data has been analyzed to identify industry trends, offering a broader picture of what is happening within the health IT industry,” Pivot Point’s executives noted in the press release.

Upon the release of the results of the online survey (executed during 2016) of more than 800 health IT professionals, 66 percent of whom were consultants, and 35 percent of whom were full-time employees, Ben Weber, managing partner at Pivot Point Consulting, stated in the press release that “The market reports we’ve published have provided healthcare IT professionals an opportunity to benchmark their compensation packages and skill sets. It has also allowed employers to identify what constitutes a competitive offer for top talent,” he explained. “Through our analysis of the survey data year over year to create this report, workers are empowered to evaluate their career paths in light of industry trends, which leads to more informed decision-making.”

Among the survey’s findings:

>  “Despite a sense that work weeks are getting longer in the United States overall, data from the last three years shows that healthcare IT professionals are trending back toward a shorter work week. There has been a 9-percent increase since 2014 of survey participants who report working 3-145 hours. Meanwhile, all categories for work weeks longer than 45 hours show decline year-over-year—except for those working 60-plus hours.”

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>  Asked whether their organization had increased or reduced their overall IT staff headcount in the past year, 35 percent said their organizations had increased headcount; 18 percent said their organizations had decreased headcount; and 47 percent didn’t know.

>  Asked whether they expected their organization to make any layoffs in the next 12 months, 37 percent said they expected the headcount to remain the same; 13 percent said their organization was hiring aggressively now that the market has turned”; 12 percent said the outcome would be dependent on the economy, and that their organization reviewed the issue of staffing every quarter; 8 percent said that their organization had made its cuts already; 20 percent didn’t know.

>  The just-released survey found 86 percent of respondents stating that they are feeling “optimistic” or “extremely optimistic” about their career opportunities right now. That represents a slight increase over the previous years (84 percent in 2015 and 78 percent in 2014).

 

 

At the time of the survey’s release, Pivot Point’s Weber spoke with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding its findings, and the implications of those findings. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Regarding the survey’s findings around any potential layoffs, how did you interpret the responses to that question by survey respondents?

We were asking individuals in executive or hiring positions what they expect their organization to do regarding layoffs. What we’re saying is that over 50 percent are saying the headcount will remain the same, or that they’ve already made their cuts. There’s a good percentage who are aggressively hiring. That was expected and represents the status quo. But on page 11, professionals feeling optimistic about career opportunities, that’s steadily increasing. We’re looking at that as positive, and we believe the market trends are buoyed by innovation and by demand for top-tier talent. And those people taking our survey are typically top-tier HIT consultants or those who are hiring those consultants. So those three factors—the market, the innovation in the marketplace, and the supply-demand dynamic around top-tier talent—those are contributing. These are primarily consultants who implement Epic and Cerner.

So you see continued demand for IT professionals, based on upgrades, replacements, etc.?

Yes, that’s right. A number of EHR [electronic health record] vendors are going out of business or leaving the field, so there’s opportunity there. The consultants we’re talking to are continuing to be optimistic.

So you see the shift towards EHR optimization, clinical transformation, etc., providing ongoing opportunity, then? And perhaps ACO [accountable care organization] development, and the shift towards population health, might also provide opportunities?

Yes, organizations are going to have to move to a more robust infrastructure in order to participate in value-based purchasing and other payment systems. And so the visualization and analysis of data that will be required to pull data from these EHRs, will provide a great deal of opportunity. Organizations are looking for solutions that provide dashboards for clinical performance improvement. And to succeed in VBP, you need data, and processes and policies around data sets. When do they get access, and what do they do with that access? And how do they move that back through the revenue cycle and other processes? So we see a tremendous ongoing opportunity there.

What skill sets, and what types of professionals, will be needed going forward?

You’re going to need consulting services with understanding of policy and payment trends like MIPS and MACRA [the Merit-based Incentive Payment Program for physicians under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015]; and you’ll need programmers and analysts who can work with the clinicians and administrators, and can understand the data. So there’s a whole bunch of skill sets that will be needed there.

At the same time, as we look at the massive consolidation of providers in the industry, and the push towards value-based purchasing, we’re seeing institutions of higher learning like Harvard and MIT beginning to combine the medical degree with a business degree, so combined MD and MBA degrees, as people see the need for people who can bring both skill sets together.

What’s your sense of tenure and turnover among healthcare IT professionals right now?

It’s a little bit less stable in that more direct-hire HIT professionals are venturing out into the consulting marketplace. More individuals are welcoming the chance or the opportunity to go from direct hire to consulting, which means those direct-hire tenure numbers will regress a little bit. It’s not going to be a huge change, but more direct-hire HIT professionals are going to be interested in those consulting opportunities, partly because of the optimism we see out there in the marketplace right now.

What would you advise people to do if they’re thinking about their professional future in this area?

That’s a great question, and I think that CIOs and others need to be empowered by data, to be able to analyze data and manage data infrastructures. Consolidation essentially takes advantage of the supply chain management issues, and of the supply of labor. And if you look at changes around meaningful use and fee-for-value, the attestation becomes a big part of that as well. So healthcare IT professionals have to have their eyes on the data, and partner with the right consulting firms that can provide them with good data on a real-time basis, and combine that with strong PMO development. So IT executives, if they don’t have that, it’s like fumbling around in the dark. And there are tremendous numbers of firms out there looking for that talent. So they need to make sure they’re partnering with the right vendors, and keeping their eyes on the data.

Does all this portend a new era, one in which it will be hard to retain staff?

That’s a great question. Retention programs are critical in that regard; they have to be active, they have to be engaged upon. The C class in IT needs to be OK with creating feedback mechanisms on staff. Right now, we’re seeing massive trends with professionals needing full benefits; and the ability to work from home. All these things are up in terms of staff interests and needs in terms of staying with a provider. So they have to be acutely aware of these trends, or have feedback mechanisms so that they can adapt to the marketplace, because the work-for-talent trend is going to continue to grow. Great question, and those are some of the things that come to mind.

One element in all this that is interesting is around gender.

Yes, that’s correct. Of the 836 respondents to our survey, about 60 percent were female, while, 40 percent were male. That represents a shift; until this past year, we’ve always had a 50/50 split.

Is flexibility in hours going to be more important, as a result of this shift towards more women in health IT?

Absolutely. In fact, that’s one of the results we’re seeing, that consultants and also direct-hire professionals, want the flexibility of working from home. We’re seeing…. And they’re asking for work-life balance. So as we look at the specialist nature of these individuals in this market, flexibility is a huge factor. And with consolidation, the directors and executives are working more hours than ever. All our categories are on decline except for those working 60 hours a week—that’s the director level or above, and their hours are increasing. As we found in this year’s results, at the individual contributor level, for health IT professionals, the hours per week are falling. We’re seeing work-life balance becoming a more important factor. In the end, it’s all about retention.


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The Modern Healthcare CIO, CMO, and CTO

December 10, 2018
by Lori Williams, Industry Voice, vice president of fulfillment, Gigster
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Disruption in the healthcare space comes primarily from the expansion of data’s role in the industry, and the healthcare C-suite’s familiarity with that expansion will help drive company and industry success

For the healthcare C-suite executive, the industry has never been more complex—nor has it ever contained so much potential. Emerging technologies mixed with political uncertainty has created an environment where incredible amounts of healthcare data are revolutionizing how patient care is handled, but patients remain uncertain about the future of their own health. With better data and the means to draw insights from it, healthcare CIOs, CMOs and CTOs are in a position to help address patients’ uncertainties and make hospitals and clinics more accessible and effective than ever before.

Here’s a look at how the role of the modern healthcare CIO, CMO and CTO is changing:

The Modern Healthcare CIO
The modern healthcare CIO’s role has evolved to become more innovative. No longer a title reserved strictly for engineers and IT professionals, today’s healthcare CIOs are focused on information science instead of simply setting up network infrastructure or providing back-end support. The trend towards a more data-centric role began as hospitals rolled out electronic health records, equipping individuals with better access to healthcare provider data. Through enterprise data warehousing, CIOs are becoming masters of data management, governance and predictive analytics, and passing along the many benefits of those knowledge bases to patients.

The Modern Healthcare CMO
The confusing healthcare landscape makes the role of a healthcare CMO more necessary than ever before. Thanks to ongoing regulatory changes, uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act, and shifting consumer expectations for on-demand services, healthcare CMOs are responsible for helping patients navigate their way through a complex and opaque industry. As patients continue to assume the role of consumers, carrying out comparison shopping as they would for any other industry, CMOs must be adept in crafting a healthcare provider’s brand and messaging.

At the same time, CMOs must also ensure that healthcare providers offer a modern online experience, ensuring websites are mobile-optimized and social media accounts are generating engagement. This also means CMOs need to help move marketing efforts into the 21st century, transitioning away from direct mail or billboards towards digital marketing and CRM tools. Because if they don’t, there are plenty of med tech startups that will promptly eat into their market share.

The Modern Healthcare CTO
Unlike healthcare CTOs of the past who remained siloed off from the rest of the organization, today’s modern healthcare CTO is fully engaged with healthcare providers and their technology stacks, utilizing new software and hardware to improve daily workflows. The CTO is enabling the transition to patient-oriented self-service operations, enabling patients to carry out administrative tasks like scheduling appointments or refilling prescriptions over the internet. Because medical data is often stored in a variety of different sources, it’s critical for the CTO to be able to keep these systems interoperable with one another. For hospitals riddled with legacy software, CTOs should expect to continue employing middleware solutions to bridge the gap between old and new.

Members of the healthcare industry C-suite have the power to transform lives, and the CIO, CMO and CTO have roles that directly affect a provider’s ability to carry out positive change. With better data from the CTO’s tech stack, the CIO can use better analytics to help providers determine the best solutions for their patients, marketed to consumers by the CMO through modern platforms in clear, easy-to-understand language.

Lori Williams currently serves as Gigster’s vice president of fulfillment. Prior to joining Gigster, Lori was the general manager for Appririo.


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What Does Your Magnum Opus Look Like? A Few Operatic Thoughts

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I was given the privilege and pleasure recently of presenting, for the second year in a row, a lecture on Richard Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, as the leading opera company in my city, a world-class opera house, has been putting on, in yearly succession, the four operas of the “Ring of the Nibelung” cycle by German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Last year, the second opera in the tetratology, “Die Walküre,” was performed; this year, the third opera, “Siegfried.” After the concluding opera, “Götterdämmerung,” is performed, the entire cycle will be presented in festival format, always a major cultural event. I spoke on “Siegfried.”

I’ve been fortunate to have seen six complete “Ring” cycles in live opera houses in different cities, and I can tell you, it’s a life-changing experience, as this four-opera work (16 hours of music altogether), sits at the absolute summit of western art. Richard Wagner was a hideous human being himself, but spent numerous years working on something that changed the course of classical music and redefined opera.

What’s more, from the summer of 1848, when Wagner wrote a first sketch of the libretti, or texts, of the operas, until their true compositional completion in 1871, more than 23 years were to pass; and it would be another five years before the tetralogy was fully presented, in a purpose-built new opera house in the Bavarian town of Bayreuth. It was a herculean feat to create the entire text of these four long operas, and compose 16 hours of music that would completely redefine the concept of opera. Indeed, when the crowned heads of Europe, the great living composers, and the 19th-century European intelligentsia and glitterati, gathered at the new Festspielhaus in Bayreuth in 1876, many were so overwhelmed by what they saw and heard, that they were rendered speechless. Even now, 142 years later, first time Ring-goers are overwhelmed by the breadth and sweep, the musical and dramatic audacity, and uniqueness of the “Ring” operas, with their story of gods, giants, dwarves, flying Valkyries, Rhinemaidens, one huge dragon, humans, gold mined from a river, magic swords and spears, and of course, a gold ring whose possessor can control the world and its fate.

Even just looking at the third opera, “Siegfried,” Wagner struggled mightily. For one thing, being essentially a grifter and a cad, Wagner borrowed/took money from everyone who would lend/give it, and often had affairs with the wives of the patrons bankrolling his compositional work, leaving his life in constant chaos, as he fled from one city to the next. One such wife, Mathilde Wesendonck, inspired the opera “Tristan und Isolde,” groundbreaking operas that Wagner wrote during a 12-year hiatus in his composition of “Siegfried.” And “Tristan” itself changed the entirety of classical music, its tonality-challenging chromaticism.

Well, no one is expecting anyone to match the unique creativity of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle. But the leaders of U.S. patient care organizations are doing a lot of important things these days, including using formal continuous improvement methodologies to rework core patient care delivery processes in order to transition into value-based healthcare. What’s more, as our Special Report on Leadership outlines, the entire role of the CIO is being rethought now, as the demands for leadership and strategic capabilities are catapulting that role forward; and patient care organizations are beginning to make real headway in advancing equality for women and people of color among the ranks of healthcare IT leaders and managers.

So while no one is expecting anyone to create an operatic tetralogy that will change the face of music, there are plenty of heroic endeavors open to anyone willing to envision the healthcare system of the future. The opportunities are as limitless as the imagination.

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Using Performance Management to Scale

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Performance management is so much more than just a year-end performance review
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Performance management and goal setting have always been part of my DNA. It’s like a compass that tells us we are steering the ship in the right direction or gives us a chance to course correct if we wander off track. It’s hard for any organization to determine how they are doing unless there are clear measurable objectives. CIOs and their leaders need monthly, quarterly and annual goals to measure how you and your team are doing against the plan. I also firmly believe they should be S.M.A.R.T. goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.

Once the goals have been established, you need a written plan. I like three-year rolling plans so you can look into the future and describe your vision of what your organization will look like 36 months out. Then you can work back to the second year, and eventually the first year, to give you the framework for what you need to accomplish in the next 12 months. I suggest you do it with your managers. It makes them accountable to the organization since they are involved in the formation of the plan.

Your plan must be a living document to be used frequently during team meetings throughout the year to see how you are performing as a team and individually. This is not a process you invest in to review at year-end to see how you performed. By then it’s too late. It must be reviewed on a consistent basis to make sure everyone is on track. Performance management is so much more than just a year-end performance review. If there are individuals who are not performing against the plan, you can use the plan as a tool to performance manage them to re-engage as an important member of the team. 

I just returned from the Scale-up Conference in Denver and learned so much about taking goal setting and performance management to a whole new level by adopting the "Rockefeller Habits," as written by Verne Harnish. After reading the book, everything changed for me in the way we will be doing our planning, goal setting and performance management forever. It’s so brilliant and easy to understand. Here they are:

Rockefeller Habit #1: The executive team is healthy and aligned

Rockefeller Habit #2: Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the organization forward

Rockefeller Habit #3: Communication rhythm is established and information moves through the organization accurately and quickly

Rockefeller Habit #4: Every facet of the organization has a person assigned with accountability for ensuring goals are met

Rockefeller Habit #5: Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities

Rockefeller Habit #6: Reporting and analysis of customer feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data

Rockefeller Habit #7: Core values and purpose are “alive” in the organization

Rockefeller Habit #8: Employees can articulate the key components of the company’s strategy accurately

Rockefeller Habit #9: All employees can answer quantitatively whether they had a good day or week

Rockefeller Habit #10: The company’s plans and performance are visible to everyone

Accountability is no longer hard to measure since the entire plan is visible to everyone throughout the organization. Each part of your team should have key people accountable for every functional part of your organization. No more guessing is required. I’ve read countless books about leadership, performance management and goal setting, as I’ve been an avid student on the subject for decades.

These ten habits, once adopted and measured regularly, can change any organization that wants to grow and scale, and keep everyone accountable along the way.

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