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Debbie FledderjohannA lack of qualified health IT professionals could prevent some healthcare providers from receiving government funding to implement Electronic Health Records (EHRs) at their facilities, according to Staffing Industry Analysts, citing data from a PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) Health Institute Report.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) has been providing funding to healthcare providers for the adoption and “meaningful use” of EHRs.  That funding is contingent upon healthcare providers meeting specific deadlines.

But according to the PwC report, 67% of healthcare CEOs said they are experiencing IT staff shortages, and 59% said those shortages will negatively impact their ability meet those deadlines to receive the meaningful use incentives.

The need for Health IT professionals is so severe that many healthcare providers are seeking IT professionals from other industries.  But that is not the ideal solution.

Recruiter Raymond Gooch, who works the health IT niche, told Top Echelon Contracting that healthcare providers need IT professionals who have the ability to communicate with medical professionals, which is a hard combination to come by.  That is why many healthcare providers are turning to recruiters to help them fill these positions, making health IT a hot niche for recruiters.

“I’ve had hospitals tell me, word for word, ‘I have no problem finding quality IT professionals on my own, but I can’t find quality IT professionals who understand healthcare,’” said Gooch.  “Hospitals would strongly prefer individuals who have a healthcare background and have crossed over into IT.  That’s a slim pool of people.”

So it’s clear that recruiters are needed in this niche, but they need to be able to provide contractors to be successful.  Healthcare providers often need a lot of people to implement an EHR system, but only need one or two health IT professionals to maintain the system on an ongoing basis, Gooch said.

Contracting allows them to quickly ramp up to implement the project and then ramp down when it’s complete.  The PwC report found that 75% of healthcare providers are looking to hire health IT talent, so the potential is there for recruiters interested in this area.