Therefore, one key capability for a HIT analyst is mastering the vendor's user-tailoring tools and utilities, and fully understanding the level of integration between applications. For example, one provider's preference may affect all providers in tightly integrated systems where financial and clinical applications share common master files. Conversely, in loosely integrated systems, a change may populate only some of the desired databases, and in these cases, getting data into all key databases may require redundant data entry and/or custom interfaces.
In either model, the analyst needs to know how changes requested by one user will unexpectedly affect others. With this knowledge, the HIT analyst needs to encourage dialogue between all affected users so that they can agree on the precise change and implementation time and date. For all changes, communication is critical because healthcare organizations work with real-time applications, every change has some impact on current clinician workflow and processes. Depending on the magnitude of the impact, the final design decision may require multiple levels of authority and decisionmaking.
To be successful, the HIT analyst also needs excellent people, communication, project management, change management, negotiation, salesmanship and leadership skills—and these are only the soft skills required. In addition, HIT analysts need to be creative problem solvers. Because there may be several ways to address a request, the analyst needs to determine which one will be most cost effective and likely to retain the modification intact after vendor updates.
Even if I could find an experienced HIT analyst who is an expert on another vendor's products, he or she would still need specific product knowledge and an understanding of the tailoring in place in our organization. This puts the experienced analyst at even par with new graduates in that both require significant investment to learn and stay current on the specific applications of the organization.
In addition to all the knowledge previously mentioned, the HIT analyst needs to support the organization's culture and its form of IT governance. IT governance concepts have been around for a long time, but they have become essential as organizations seek to meet prescribed dates and functionality objectives established by the CMS to achieve meaningful-use incentives. Almost all organizations that receive incentives have some form of IT governance that ensures IT resources are deployed to provide the greatest value for the organization. Learning specific culture nuances and IT governance protocols can be as challenging as learning vendor product specifics. This requirement may actually put experienced analysts at a disadvantage to new graduates, because they must let go of the approaches that worked elsewhere.
Finally and equally as important, a HIT analyst needs resilience and leadership skills to survive change processes. When I interview applicants new to HIT, I advise them that healthcare is a rapidly changing market sector, and technology in all industries continues to change exponentially. I advise them to search their souls and determine if they really want to be in the vortex of this much change.
A reporter recently asked me how long this on-boarding process takes. I told her that I've been in healthcare IT for nearly 30 years and I don't know everything—no one knows everything, but I hope that, within a year, the new graduates can perform independent tasks and rapidly build on their knowledge.
CIOHoly Spirit Health SystemCamp Hill, Pa.