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More Focus Needed on HIE Staffing, Report Says

February 12, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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According to a new study from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), when it comes to health information exchanges (HIEs), significant focus is placed on governance, but little attention is placed on the staffing of Health Information Exchange Organizations or Networks (HIOs).

For this study, HIMSS and AHIMA established a joint workgroup to explore both current and planned HIE staffing models with the goal of providing a clear understanding of the professional skill sets and experience critical to HIE organizational success.  Representatives from 35 HIE organizations, encompassing a wide range of sizes, locations, funding strategies and stages of implementation, responded to a detailed survey on their operational strategies, current staffing profiles and anticipated hiring needs.

Survey participants included organizations that have been operational since as early as 1994, with slightly more than half self-identified as state-designated entities (SDE). The significant majority of participants used not-for-profit governance structures and planned to use subscription and membership fees as part of their sustainability strategy. Primary care, inpatient, outpatient, emergency department (ED) and specialty care services were identified as the top types of organizations sharing information through an HIO.

According to the study, the great majority (86 percent) of those surveyed had a staff of 25 people or less, while only a few (nine percent) were significantly larger with staff size of 51 or more people. Technology positions (41 percent) dominated current staffing as reported by the survey participants, with operations positions (34 percent) close behind. Overall, the organizations surveyed were planning very little hiring at the time of the survey.

 “Deployment and effective use of information technology is complex, challenging work requiring skilled staff," Carla Smith, executive vice president, HIMSS, said in a statement. "This study provides unique insight into the world of HIE organizations, focused on skill sets and experiences required for today’s and future expectations. This first study also sets a benchmark for additional workforce studies in this critical area.”

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