More healthcare IT professionals needed for health IT adoption

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As the healthcare system in the United States moves toward wider IT adoption, approximately 40,000 additional health IT professionals will be needed, according to a study presented to the House Steering Committee on Telehealth and Healthcare Informatics.

The results showed the “overall IT staffing ratio to be 0.142 IT FTE [full-time equivalent] per hospital bed. Extrapolating to all hospitals beds in the United States, this suggests a total current hospital IT workforce size of 108,390 FTEs.”

However, "if the U.S. [health IT] agenda is fulfilled and hospitals move to higher levels of adoption, an additional 40,784" full-time health IT professionals will be necessary, the study noted.

The need for IT professionals in health IT settings is large and will increase as more advanced systems are implemented, according to study authors William Hersh, chair of the department of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., and Adam Wright, a senior medical informatician at the Clinical Informatics Research & Development Group at Partners HealthCare in Boston.

The results make a more concerted research agenda essential to a better characterization of the health IT workforce and its job roles, required competencies and optimal education.

According to Hersh and Wright, this will not only “help health IT leaders implement systems better, but also assist educational programs in determining the best curricula for students training to fill these roles. A major component of this research agenda must include further elaboration of the role of BMI professionals in the success of HIT implementations. It is also imperative for policymakers to address issues of planning and funding for this important barrier to more widespread adoption of HIT.”

The study was based on an analysis of the HIMSS Analytics Database, which includes information from about 5,000 U.S. hospitals.