Opportunities Abound in the Fight Against EHR Staffing Shortages

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By Doreen DeGroff | Apr 21, 2023

4 minute read Blog| EHR/EPR

As an IT hiring manager, finding the right resource with the right skills, knowledge and culture fit can be a herculean task. In the fast-changing healthcare IT space, finding individuals who have both real-life and healthcare operations experience plus the necessary EHR technical skills can make the task even more challenging.  Despite advancements in healthcare technology and EHR applications, the fact is that we still face a tremendous amount of  EHR optimization, interoperability, and transformation work. This requires smart, experienced, and innovative individuals to concur technical debt in healthcare. 

Too few EHR skilled professionals in the healthcare IT industry 

For healthcare IT (HIT) professionals, the time it takes to close a gap in technical skills has increased while at the same time technical skills are becoming obsolete more quickly. IBM Research suggests that the half-life of a job-related skill is about five years, but more specific technology skills are likely to change in just two and a half years.  

Over the past five years, staffing has remained a top agenda item for healthcare IT leaders and there is little doubt the labor market is quite different post-pandemic. Based on this 2022 Deloitte survey, 89 percent of executives say skills are becoming important for the way organizations are defining work, deploying talent, managing careers, and valuing employees. 

How can HIT professionals and healthcare organizations stay ahead of the knowledge deficit looming today? Considering today’s labor market, what's the best way to invest in our workforce? What if we placed more focus on training, retraining, and upskilling our current workforce as a strategy to help shield us from the talent shortages and provide us with a wider base of highly skilled resources? What if training could improve employee satisfaction and offer alternative career pathways?    

I thought about these questions for quite some time and one of the answers I kept coming back to was this: we needed an internal training program at CereCore. We needed to take on the task of training the next generation of MEDITECH EHR professionals and we should start by educating our colleagues on the MEDITECH platform, how clinical workflow processes shape the EHR and the many ways the EHR affects clinical teams and the patient. 

I presented my analysis of the impending knowledge deficit for MEDITECH-specific expertise in the healthcare IT industry and how we could address the problem through an internal training program. I could not have been prouder to be a part of CereCore and this team of life-long learners—from executives to individual contributors—as I received the support I needed to move forward.  

Training up the next generation of EHR specialists 

With the program plans approved, I launched into a yearlong odyssey to train and upskill existing resources and the results have far exceeded my expectations.   

We knew there were a few must-haves for the training program. We needed to help resources constantly upgrade their soft and technical skills and that “hard” skills are often learned by years “in the field.” Soft skills and institutional knowledge are two of the hardest things to capture as well as teach.   

Another challenge was to define the right amount of information for the level of resource and where to find the information. What we soon realized was the saying is true, “It really does take a village.” Here are some of the bits of wisdom and discovery that have shaped our training program thus far.  

  • Learn from the best. We already had a pool of subject matter experts who would contribute to developing the knowledge base. 
  • Keep it short. Distilling this information into consumable chucks is perhaps the most difficult and most rewarding part of developing our program.
  • Establish a sound foundation. We solved the right information for resource question by asking each student to start at the beginning. We all can learn or use a refresher on things, and considering the speed of EHR changes, participants may know one version of MEDITECH but not Expanse, or they may work with Epic and Cerner but not MEDITECH, for example. 
  • Incorporate real-life scenarios. We also re-evaluated our success criteria. While many similar programs rely on multiple choice or similar tests to validate student competency, we decided to use hands-on, scenario-based tests to build and show competency.

We are putting our internal training program through the paces of the pilot process, like any other EHR project. We kicked off the pilot class with just over a dozen students, all with a variety of skill and experience levels. The feedback and lessons learned we have gained thus far not only helped us improve the content and delivery for the next class of more than 30 students but also showed glimmers of how successful the program might become.   

Recruiting the talent to sustain us 

Where there is technology, there will be some degree of technical debt. Part of our duty as the current purveyors of technology in healthcare is to sell our vision and passion to the next generation. Healthcare IT is rich with opportunity to care for as many patients as healthcare practitioners themselves. Let’s recruit powerful minds and compassionate hearts to the field of healthcare IT. Let’s teach them what we know and learn from them so that we build on the accomplishments to date, avoid back tracking, and combat technical debt before it is harder to overcome. Our Careers site lists some excellent opportunities and our training program is ready to support the talent that can be primed and ready to evolve, transform, and improve. 

Build on your passion, seize your opportunities to address technical debt 

In the 30-plus years I have been working in healthcare technology, I have had the opportunity to work on many rewarding projects. Developing this internal training program has been a unique opportunity to be an active participant in helping solve the EHR technical skill debt that I see in the healthcare industry today. Find your way to be a part of addressing technical debt, because while the problem isn’t going away, it isn’t unsurmountable. 

Learn more about MEDITECH 

You can also have access to similar training resources through the MEDITECH Resource Library. Subscribe to find demos and videos on a variety of topics and start sharpening your technical skills, too. 

Related topic 

Big and Small Ways Healthcare IT Can Address Technical Debt

About the Author:
Doreen DeGroff

MEDITECH Senior Product Director, CereCore

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