Prior hospital IT experience is valuable for the exposure not only to specific applications, but also to hospital culture. Hospital cultures are unique from those in other market sectors given the ramped-up passion of healthcare providers and their sense of urgency in the midst of relentless change. For IT programming professionals who may have had little or no direct customer contact, this is a concern. Healthcare analysts need to understand the customer's business and collaborate with customers to determine how best to accommodate the desired workflow and documentation requirements.
Also, there is a language in healthcare that is basic to effective communication. For example, when the customer states that the Joint Commission or the CMS requires specific documentation, he or she does not expect to begin to define these organizations or why compliance is mandatory. Concepts such as "medical-legal" must be understood to properly prioritize system malfunctions. I was in a situation years ago where the database used the prior patient for new orders after a vendor enhancement. As a result, orders intended for one patient were sent for another. The vendor enhancement needed to be rolled back immediately during prime time, with no delay to schedule an outage or determine the root cause.
IT staff also needs to support and grasp our unique IT governance processes. Applicants might actually be at a disadvantage if they come from another hospital that hasn't established IT governance. These individuals usually want to continue to please customers on a personal one-on-one basis rather than based on the relative value of the request to the organization as determined by the executive team. These individuals also may encourage customers to call them directly to bypass technical support center services and other processes. Without IT governance, there is confusion over roles and responsibilities of IT professionals and customers. Given the magnitude of today's sophisticated clinical systems, it is essential that customers assume as much responsibility as possible to perform basic tailoring and file maintenance. Hospitals cannot operate with all requests and first-level support funneled through IT.
Our earlier strategy did not require applicants to have experience with our core clinical systems, just experience with other highly configurable core clinical applications. After we acknowledged that we would make the same investment in experienced health IT staff unfamiliar with our applications and pay a higher salary differential based on experience, we stepped back and re-evaluated our options. As a management team, we determined that we need analysts who, beyond being professional, are creative thinkers, lifelong learners, excellent communicators/project managers and effective vendor managers. Given the sizable training and time investment, we look for indications that the applicant is looking for a career in healthcare IT and not just a job.
Our recruitment strategy today is to engage national health IT recruiters for all senior-level position positions and to do campus recruiting for entry-level applicants interested in establishing a career in healthcare IT. Many of these new grads present with knowledge of current basic technical skills, project management principles and time-management skills and an eagerness to learn without a prejudice for how the last place did it.
Vice president and chief information officerHoly Spirit Health SystemCamp Hill, Pa.