The health care industry suffers from a shortage of personnel. Thankfully, the condition is curable, however. When it comes to medical staffing solutions, the positions do not only include doctors, nurses and aides. Hiring network and information technology professionals through an agency allows HR at a health care facility to focus on acquiring talent involved with direct patient care, while still finding the best recruits for the job.

Hospitals and clinics of the future will turn to consulting agencies for their expertise in IT professionals instead of their HR departments. Find out why this strategy offers the most significant advantages for health care facilities.

Why Are There Health Care Staffing Shortages?

An increase in the technology hospitals and medical providers require has put a strain on facilities to find enough IT personnel for the task. Unfortunately, hospitals prefer to hire only IT staff with knowledge and experience in the health care industry, putting an even greater strain on the shortage as they pass on skilled information technology experts without the required experience in the field.

In 2014, one-third of managers needed to cut back or delay health-care-related IT projects due to not having enough staff for the job. To meet the demand, three-fourths of health care managers had to resort to outsourcing at least some of their IT tasks.

Some hospitals have sought to alleviate the problem by requiring their existing medical staff to take on IT tasks. Cross-training nurses and doctors in health IT does not solve the problem, but only asks more of already overworked and short-staffed medical professionals. Additionally, the specialization in software development and maintenance requires more education than a few short courses in computer familiarization. Health facilities need dedicated IT staff to keep their systems working.

Today’s health care sector has a greater need for IT professionals than ever. The trend began in 2015 when federal incentives to switch to electronic health records, coupled with converting to a new medical coding system, drove facilities to seek more information technology experts.

While many places have completed their conversions to the required electronic health records and medical coding system, IT needs in the industry have not decreased. Many clinics and hospitals offer patient portals to allow for making appointments and emailing doctors. IT experts need to set up and maintain these systems while ensuring they have a user-friendly interface.

Additionally, maintaining patient privacy is a critical factor with more information electronically stored and data breaches happening regularly. IT professionals stand between hackers and sensitive data. Without them, data is at serious risk.

Bringing in new staff with IT experience poses a problem for the health care industry, where IT salaries lag behind those of other sectors. For example, IT managers in the health care industry had a $3,000 to $22,000 gap in pay compared to those in computer consulting, legal and insurance industries. Facility size also makes a difference. Smaller clinics and hospitals offered even less to their IT staff than larger hospitals or health systems.

The increase in the need for health care IT staffing had a projected rise of between 15% and 37% between 2015 and 2020. While health care does not pay IT professionals as much as other sectors, it can offer new hires freedom to work and similar incentives to attract them to the industry.

Hiring only from the health care industry does not ease the shortage of IT staff. Such a practice worsens it. Not looking outside the sector for IT professionals also creates a myopic view when it comes to problem-solving. Extending hiring beyond hospitals and health systems benefits hiring facilities.

Another strategic health care staffing method is not restricting hires to those only in the industry. In Texas, the Baylor, Scott and White group — created from the merger between Scott and White Health Care with the Baylor Health System — began hiring IT professionals without experience in health care settings. The result was a group of experts who brought in innovative ideas from outside sectors.

Because IT needs in the health services industry will continue to grow in the future, managing directors and HR departments need to develop a strategy for hiring competent staff for both short-term projects and long-term maintenance of technology systems. Health care IT staffing companies may ease the burden of this task by offering a trusted resource for qualified personnel. Knowing how to recognize companies that will do this requires some research into the operations and services of various agencies.

Why a Staffing Agency Is a Valuable Partner to Your Health Care Facility

Across multiple industries, 42,000 employers answered a survey that found 40% of them had difficulty finding qualified candidates for their open positions. As noted, such problems increase when health care facilities need IT professionals.

Health care information technology staffing companies provide several advantages to facilities that use their services. These include the ability to cater specifically to the facility’s needs and more.

1. Better Candidates

Health care staffing solutions start with people. Many experienced professionals turn to staffing agencies to find jobs that require extra qualifications. In job markets where many postings by companies have entry-level salaries and responsibilities, those who need higher-paying positions may use the connections of staffing agencies.

These highly qualified and experienced candidates fill the staffing agencies’ databases, waiting for the right position. Some IT staffing companies only allow highly skilled candidates into their systems to ensure their performance once on the job.

2. Assistance With Hiring

When it comes to bringing new employees into the company, staffing agencies may help with the onboarding process. While most associate health care staffing companies with contractors and temporary labor, these are not the only type of employees such businesses provide.

Facilities can source permanent, full-time employees through health care staffing consultants, too. These direct-hire workers still must go through extensive screening and several interviews before hiring, to ensure qualified candidates.

For the best of both worlds, companies may choose workers who operate under a contract-to-hire agreement. These employees start as contractors. At the end of their tenure, the facility may decide to permanently hire those who excelled in their positions. The contract term serves as a temporary, paid trial period to ensure both the workers and the facility complement each other in their goals and work ethic.

According to Glassdoor, the average cost of hiring a new employee is $4,000. Health care staffing professionals take over much of the effort, in addition to storing information on the candidates’ credentials and licensing. The agency handles the work of finding workers who align with the requirements set forth by the health care facility.

When it comes to finalizing hires, a staffing agency may assist in salary negotiations, paperwork and scheduling. These tasks reduce the burden on HR, saving the facility money over time and reducing the cost of hiring new IT employees.

3. An Understanding of Both Health Care and IT

While HR departments at hospitals or hiring managers in clinics may know what makes a good worker for treating patients, they may not fully understand the hard and soft skills required for qualified IT professionals.

Not all staffing agencies work to hire IT professionals to health care facilities. Those that do must know about the specialized requirements for IT experts who work in the health care field. Health care IT workers need to know about medical coding, electronic health records and any in-house software used for patient communications and information access. For government-run VA hospitals or similar facilities, an extra layer of complexity presents itself in the ability to adhere to government regulations and security clearance.

By using their knowledge of both information technologies and the specific needs of the health care industry, private and government health care staffing agencies can provide the best candidates for the job.

4. Extra Resources Not Available to Health Care Facilities

While HR departments can post job offerings on their website or even in field publications, they typically have a limited reach and not as many resources as a staffing service with nationwide influence. When it comes to health care staffing resources, IT agencies have more, drawing from a larger pool of candidates and having a more in-depth knowledge of the industry.

Discover how these additional resources and research abilities benefit the health care facility and the staffing company.

A Staffing Agency Can Offer Research and Resources

Choosing health care staffing agencies for IT instead of only medical experts improves the chances of finding highly qualified candidates with ample experience. Companies specializing in staffing IT professionals have better resources and improved research not available to internal HR departments. Partnering with a staffing agency only improves the chances of finding the right staff for technology needs.

1. Wider Talent Pool

Unlike health systems that only pool candidates from the immediate area or those who know about the opening, a staffing agency gathers resumes from across the country. By drawing from a broader talent pool, the chances of finding the right IT candidates for the facility’s needs increase.

Even if a facility only wants those with experience in the health care field, a staffing agency can use that information when selecting potential employees. When using an outside company to help fill its staffing positions, the health facility still gets the final say in who it hires or keeps for long-term employment.

2. Focus on IT

While HR departments in hospitals may know about what qualifications make an ideal medical professional, they may not understand the requirements for IT professionals. Instead of trying to juggle a wider variety of job requirements for multiple positions in the facility, an HR department can hand off IT hiring to a business that specializes in it.

Medical staffing agencies with a focus on IT know which candidates have the best qualifications and track records. They also can filter out workers who lack knowledge of specific health care software applications and systems.

Depending on whether a facility needs short-term solutions or long-term employees, a staffing agency can find the right candidates for the job. For example, those working on temporary projects may assist with converting paper records to electronic health records or making the transition between medical coding systems. Full-time employees may work at IT help desks or manage both temporary and long-term projects.

Distinguishing between the candidates best for short or long-term work and the projects they have the most qualifications for is what IT staffing agencies excel at. Leaving this task to these experts in the field will ensure the facility gets the best IT staff for its needs.

3. Faster Results

Finding a full team of IT professionals for a project with a short deadline may seem impossible for a hospital HR department. However, professional health care staffing services regularly fulfill such needs.

When working with deadlines, the multiple layers of approvals needed for bringing new hires into health care facility operations can take too much time.

For example, in 2013, The Computer Merchant sent more than 30 IT professionals to Ohio to create upgrades in the state’s Medicaid Information Technology System. In just six weeks, specialists from multiple information technology experiences deployed to complete the project.

Health care facilities that need large IT teams in a short time will have their needs fulfilled in less time and with less hassle by relying on a staffing agency.

4. Guaranteed Results

When hiring through HR, workers’ performance on the job remains uncertain until after a trial period. With some short-term projects, the worker may complete a task, then discover they’re incompatible with the facility’s culture or operations.

Depending on the staffing agency, performance guarantees may be available. The Computer Merchant offers such a guarantee for both temporary and full-time employees. A facility that does not feel satisfied for an IT professional hired through the staffing company does not pay for the worker’s first 80 hours.

While not all staffing agencies offer guaranteed performance from the workers they contract out, facilities that work with ones that do will benefit from greater reliability on the IT professionals hired.

How Proper Staffing for Health Care Can Reduce Liability

Proper health care support staffing can help facilities reduce liability in numerous ways. Having a skilled IT department with highly qualified personnel can design and maintain the electronic infrastructure needed to reduce the risk for the facility and patients.

1. Develop Electronic Applications

While electronic health records, or EHRs, track patients’ health over time across multiple providers, electronic medical records, or EMRs, create a digital version of paper documents from one facility or provider. While most facilities have converted to EHRs, directly inputting data into an EMR may require system upgrades. The results in reducing liability and risk make the investment in time, personnel and software worth it.

EMRs help doctors reduce their liability by providing better medical care. With prescriptions sent electronically, misread papers and stolen prescription pads are relics of the past. Additionally, maintaining an easy-to-read information sheet on all patients ensures all providers have the information needed to continue quality care and make fewer mistakes. EMRs also ensure providers give guideline-driven treatments, have fewer errors in medication, reduce redundant treatments and increase efficiency.

Integrating electronic applications to make inputting patient information into a database easier requires having an IT professional with database creation and maintenance skills who also understand the medical information that providers need to include. A health care support staffing agency can find the right candidates with experience in converting patient files to EHRs and EMRs or setting up the software required to do so.

2. Maintain Electronic Software

Any electronic system will need regular maintenance and a team of experts to contact if a problem arises. Technical support for in-house software should not need to call an outsourced help desk. Finding IT professionals to staff an in-facility help desk does not have to fall under the job of HR. An agency with experience in staffing technical help desks in a variety of industries can make the chore easier.

Health care workers will have specific issues with the software that require addressing at all hours of the day. These problems will not be the same as those experienced by database users in the insurance industry or other fields. Finding knowledgeable IT workers can be challenging for health facilities that only look for doctors, nurses and aides. IT staffing companies know how to find software maintainers specifically for the health industry.

A current, well-maintained electronic database encourages providers to use it, which helps ensure accuracy in medical recommendations and prescriptions. Fewer mistakes due to more correct records help lower the facility’s liability and potential medical errors in patients.

3. Build Security Features

IT in health facilities opens many doors to risk for patient information. With paper records, only one copy of a patient’s file existed. Only those with physical access to the file could see it. EMRs face the risk of data breaches, which IT professionals must find ways to prevent. Additionally, these electronic records increase liability through some other means that those from outside the hospital can solve.

Using a staffing agency for IT experts can bring outside ideas into the facility to close potential gaps in data-keeping and information security. Health care facilities invited to work with an external risk mitigation program eventually all failed to complete the process. Many could not see the process through due to competing priorities or a lack of time.

By using an outside agency to staff a health facility’s IT department, HR does not need to spend as much time to find the required individuals, saving time. With a dedicated team focused on IT risk management for the facility, competing projects no longer become a problem. An IT staffing agency can find more team members to handle additional projects that come up in the facility.

To reduce risk in the facility, a dedicated IT team will need to build and maintain security features that protect patient data and encourage continued use of the EMR. Even in hospitals with EMRs, providers too often would continue to use verbal or paper notes as addenda to information in the database. These notes would go ignored, reducing the effectiveness of EMRs. One hospital solved this issue by integrating a “Quick View” tab that would summarize treatment for the patient and educating providers to use this asset.

Such changes to the software to make them more accessible and secure requires having an IT staff who knows how to work on these tasks and keep information at the facility safer. Using a staffing company to provide the IT staff saves money and helps the facility reduce its risk and liability from medical errors or data breaches.

How a Staffing Agency Can Help With Health Care Recruiting

Partnering with The Computer Merchant benefits medical facilities with a guarantee for the contractors deployed, in addition to the advantages of working with a certified veteran-owned business. In 2015 and 2016, we received the TechServe Appliance Award for Delivery Performance Excellence. Each of our contractors has an 80-hour performance guarantee, and core full-time employees have a two- to three-month performance guarantee, ensuring the correct hiring decision.

Over the years, our centralized health care staffing research model has given us the capacity to deliver the IT professionals they need to perform at the highest levels nationally to Fortune 1000 companies. Among those in the industry, we have the largest database of consultants, with more than 10 million individual profiles in our system. Our ability to send qualified IT personnel to the health care facilities we work with depends on this immense talent pool.

For more information or to get started in finding IT staffing, contact us at The Computer Merchant.