Growing Contingent Workforce Benefits Both Healthcare Organizations & HIT Professionals

(Appeared March 1, 2017 on HIStalk.com )

There’s high growth when it comes to temporary workers, contractors, independent consultants, and freelancers within Healthcare IT. New technologies, cost factors, and a whole new generation of HIT professionals wanting to work in a gig economy (http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/gig-economy) are fueling this growth. The rise and growth of the contingent workforce are only expected to accelerate over the next few years into 2020.

This dynamic shift to a contingent workforce makes sense for healthcare organizations and the benefits are well worth it.  With a contingent workforce, healthcare organizations experience a big efficiency boost, risk mitigation, and derive a substantial cost savings in these ways:

  • The rise of managed service providers (MSP) enables health systems to acquire and manage a contingent workforce. As contingent labor programs continue to grow, these partnerships will be one of the most important workforce solutions that a health system can adopt to effectively manage risk and decrease healthcare hiring.
  • The use of vendor management systems (VMS) is a fast way to source and hire contingent labor. These systems make it easy to submit requisitions to multiple staffing suppliers.
  • Outsourced expertise will be able to assist healthcare facilities in meeting the January 2018 EHR system requirements. In addition, they often have the extensive knowledge needed when it comes to medical coding. For example, according to the AMA, in 2017, ICD-10-CM changes will include 2,305 new codes, 212 deleted ones, and 553 revised ones.
  • Healthcare organizations can “dial up” or “dial down” staffing as needed without having to pay FTE benefits.
  • Improved visibility and provider stays in control through the use of structured reporting, governance processes, and dashboards.
  • Internal resources are freed-up to focus on higher priority clinical-facing initiatives such as workflow optimization.

For HIT professionals, contingency work in the HIT space is very attractive since opportunities are plentiful, the remuneration is desirable and the work is rewarding. In addition, work is becoming more knowledge and project-based and therefore, causing healthcare organizations to become increasingly reliant on their specialized HIT skills and expertise. According to Black Book Rankings Healthcare (http://www.blackbookrankings.com/healthcare/), this reliance will help to fuel the growth of the global HIT outsourcing market, which should hit $50.4 billion by 2018.

However, making the change from an employee to a contingent worker takes thought and preparation before just jumping in. Here are a few suggestions:

Identify the niche where you have skills and expertise. Know your passion. Also, pinpoint what type of HIT services and advice you can offer that healthcare organizations are willing to pay for.

Obtain the required certifications. Getting certified is a surefire way to advance your career in the IT industry. Research IT certification guides (https://www.globalknowledge.com/us-en/content/articles/top-paying-certifications/) to identify which ones you will need in the areas of security, storage, project management, cloud computing, computer forensics and more.

Build your network and brand yourself. It’s important to start building your network once you’ve decided to be a consultant. A strong contact base will help you connect with the resources needed in order to find work.  Also, position yourself as an expert, someone that an organization cannot do without. Now, combine both a professional network and social network to help you spread with word faster.

Target your market and location. Determine what type of facility or organization you want to work with and once decided, think about location. Do you want to work remotely or on-site? Are you open to relocation or a commute via airline to and from work?

Decide whether to go solo or engage with a consulting and staffing firm.  If you have the entrepreneurial spirit and want to approach a specific organization directly for a long-term gig, you might want to go solo. However, if you’re open to both short-term and long-term opportunities in various locations, a consultant staffing firm might be the answer.

The rise of a contingent workforce and gig economy will only continue to grow and with it, much opportunity. A consultant or contractor has more freedom than a regular employee to circulate within their professional community and to take more jobs in more challenging environments. For healthcare facilities, a contingent workforce means acquiring the right HIT skills and expertise needed without the overhead costs associated with payroll benefits and administration. No doubt, a win-win situation for both.

Take Time to Assess Your Career

Many people think it’s time to change jobs or careers only after a bomb drops on them such as a bad review or in danger of being downsized. Don’t wait until you’re in a desperate situation to make a life changing decision. Instead, take time to assess your career often in order to see where it’s going.

According to the Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, February 15, 2017), assessing your job should be done on a quarterly basis and be considered a “Fitness Plan for Your Career.” It’s less daunting than creating a 10 or 20-year career road map and consists of small steps rather than large leaps. The WSJ suggests you:

  • Take stock of what’s working well in your career and what’s not
  • Ask yourself what you could add or change on your current job to do more of what you want
  • Consider learning new skills trying freelance gigs as a way to discover new positions
  • Keep a career journal to help you recall details of your skills and accomplishments
  • Build your reputation by writing or speaking publicly about new developments in your field
  • Expand your network beyond past and present colleagues to include others in your field, industry, and region

If after creating the fitness plan, you decide that you definitely want and need a change, don’t be reckless about it. Try to follow these key steps:

  • Know what you want. What does the new job or career look like? What doesn’t it look like? Will you be able to leverage your current skills for a successful transition?
  • Find out what it takes. In order to transfer into a new role or field, will you need additional training, education or certifications?
  • You still have to eat and live. Will this new position pay enough to cover the rent/mortgage and put food on the table? Does it fit with your family life and lifestyle?
  • Create a plan. Put together a timeline of what you need to do and by when. You will need a financial plan as well. Don’t try to just wing it without the proper planning.
  • Shift your brand. Change your resume, online presence and profile so they make sense to your new target audience that you’re trying to reach. Make sure they “get” you and your aspirations.
  • Network. Network. Network. You need to get to know the influencers and successful people in your new field. Ask people you know for introductions to them. Also, find out what associations they are members of. Spend time on LinkedIn, Twitter or their company website to obtain more information and make connections.

Your career is one of the most important assets you will manage in your life. Therefore, you have to give it the proper time and attention it deserves. It’s in your best interest to take stock every quarter to make sure your career is still on track and if it’s still what you want.

Employers Want Self-Starters

March 14, 2017

By Dan Charney, President of DRI

A big deal is being made about self-starters these days because it is at the top of a hiring manager’s list. It’s considered one of the key traits that employers are looking for in their employees.

However, in the real world, most people are not self-starters. We don’t always live up to expectations or our own ambitions. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change and become a self-starter. Here a few ways to get fired up:

Go for it and don’t be afraid to fail.  The fear of failure can paralyze you and keep you from reaching your goals. Instead, learn from failure and apply what you learned. Self-starters turn setbacks into successes. There’s nothing wrong with taking a few chances. Without risk there is no reward.

Take responsibility. A self-starter accepts the job at hand and takes responsibility for the decisions and actions they carry out. In addition, they often take on additional duties and responsibilities because they know that if carried out effectively, it can speed up a promotion.

Be reliable. Your boss, the people you work with, and clients should be able to rely on you on a daily basis, especially during peak or urgent periods. Be there on time and be the one they can count on.

Take ownership. Hold yourself accountable for your actions and how well you do your job. Always think of ways to improve how the job gets done. Bring fresh ideas to the table. But back-up your actions with commitment and always keep your word.

Finish what you started. Don’t stop working on a task half way through it. Instead, follow through until the very end. Then, follow-up.  This shows you care about the task even after it has been completed.

Stay ahead of deadlines.  Do your work early. Don’t put it off even if it’s a task you don’t like.  Self-starters don’t dillydally. They are diligent and finish a project or task even before the deadline.

Show respect. Treat your bosses and colleagues with respect and help them out whenever possible. Refrain from office gossip and from complaining about the company, your boss, or co-workers. Self-starters stay away from negativity. They focus on the possible.

Be a problem solver. We are all faced with problems in our work and life. Solving those problems and minimizing the occurrence of problems takes courage and good decision making skills. Self-starters meet problems head on before circumstances force their hand.

Don’t call it work. Self-starters do not feel like they’re in a daily grind.  Rather, they focus on the long-term goal or reward that work brings. Those rewards might include a down payment on a house, saving money for a vacation, or simply growing a nest egg.

Overall, a self-starter is able to work effectively without regularly being told what to do.  They realize that success requires work. Employers don’t need to micromanage them or worry that their work load won’t get done or meet the deadline.

The best part of being a self-starter is that anyone can learn to become one. You need to replace some of your old habits and adopt the new ones mentioned above. This is the first step in becoming a self-starter instead of a self-stopper.

HIMSS 2017 Recap by Tom Clark, VP of Operations at DCA

March 2, 2017

By Tom Clark, VP of Operations

I recently attended the 2017 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando. Initially, I was excited to go to Orlando to break away from the often brutal Cleveland winter, but to my surprise, when I returned to Cleveland, it was 75 degrees and sunny!  Aside from the great weather, HIMSS had everything from extensive networking opportunities, to cybersecurity and innovation experts doubling as Shark Tank stars on ABC, to presentations by former politicians.  Here is what I took note of at this year’s conference:

Increased CMIO Presence and Involvement:

Having worked for a physician led organization in my past, I know well the value of increased involvement from medical staff at the leadership level.  In particular, as our industry continuously evolves technologically, the role of Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) is expanding and more importantly, the best among them are intimately involved.

Cybersecurity:

As expected, cybersecurity was a popular theme at HIMSS. Not only can breaches affect data, analytics, and financials, but also patient safety in the end. Hospitals and health systems use Information Systems to function, and cyber-attacks could damage more than just their reputations. With this focus on cybersecurity, HIMSS was buzzing with strategies, and solutions to protect healthcare organizations from threats.  Again, the CMIOs were their weighing-in, learning and sharing.

Process Technologies:

Another theme at the conference was process technologies. We have been talking about it for many years, but we are well past building traction.  Chuck Spurr, CIO of Shields Health Care Group spoke at the Revenue Cycle Solutions Summit and discussed using Six Sigma for organizing processes and data in the constantly changing healthcare environment.  As a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt myself, it is always encouraging to see focus on these methodologies and tools.  Again, with respect to Process Technologies, we are seeing and hearing more from CMIOs.

Presentations:

I was able to see some interesting presentations at HIMSS 2017.  For example, CareTrail, a clinical communication and collaboration application combining messaging, on-call scheduling and task management was extremely innovative in their technology.  It was created by VisionIT in collaboration with Henry Ford Health System.  Once again, it was a CMIO that was involved in the collaboration on this.  I especially enjoyed the presentation and perspective of Dr. David Allard, CMIO, Henry Ford Hospital and Health Network.  With a focus on data at the conference, it was also interesting to hear Paul Matsen, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of the Cleveland Clinic, discuss connecting data to give patients the best possible experience, during a panel discussion on Using Data to Understand the Full Value of Patients.

Random Thoughts:

Wow, this conference was massive!  It sounded from colleagues going into it like attendance would be down, but it was still huge in terms of footprint and headcount.  Party on the Moon, the band that played at HIStalkpalooza, is terrific.  Ed Marx, Author of Extraordinary Tales of a Rather Ordinary Life, whom I recently had the pleasure of introducing as a Keynote Speaker at the Northern Ohio HIMSS Winter Conference at the Global Center for Health and Innovation, told me then how he enjoyed dancing.  Fast forward to HIStalkpalooza, and it was obvious that he enjoys dancing as much or more than HIT.  If you have seen any pictures, there were a lot of conference attendees trying their hand at line dancing following the awards at the House of Blues.  One of my colleagues, who gained a new appreciation for quality dress shoes, thinks he may have earned a stress fracture in his foot.  How many attendees hit their single day peak for steps?  The veterans schedule all their meetings in close geographic proximity.  Start scouting out your plan now for HIMSS 2018 in Las Vegas.

Healthcare Cybersecurity Professionals in High Demand by Tom Clark, VP of Operations for DCA

Cybersecurity professionals within the healthcare industry are in high demand and jobs are growing at a rapid pace. According to Forbes.com, the cybersecurity industry will grow from $75 billion in 2015 to an estimated $170 billion by 2020. In addition, the demand for the cybersecurity workforce is expected to rise to 6 million by 2019.

With cyberattacks becoming more common over the past two years in healthcare, HIT executives and hiring managers are in the hunt for skilled cybersecurity professionals. However, right now the demand for these experts outstrips supply. The good news is that supply could change over the next couple of years as more colleges are now offering degrees in cybersecurity. In addition, many new options exist for current professionals to augment their skill sets, including certificates from technical training companies.

A career in the healthcare sector can mean a six-figure salary, job security, excellent benefits, and upward mobility. Jobs that require HIT cybersecurity know-how will usually have a range of titles and range of median salaries:

Chief Information Security Officer: $223,334
Cybersecurity Network Engineer:  $ 92,793
Cybersecurity Architect: $110,451
Cybersecurity Analyst: $ 90,120
Sr. Software Engineer: $ 99,900
Security/IT Director: $105,112
Security Consultant: $ 93,529

* Median Salaries from Payscale.com & Healthcare IT News, January 2017

Additionally, to be considered for a position, there are a number of core skills needed by everyone entering the cybersecurity workforce including:

– Communication Skills
– Knowledge of Scripts & Programming Tools
– Ability to Work in a Team Environment
– Ability to Assess Client’s Security Needs
– Working Knowledge of Malicious Codes
– Ability to Recognize Intruder Techniques
– Working knowledge of Common Network Protocols

Cybersecurity will continue to be a major concern for healthcare executives in 2017 after two years of steadily increasing cyber threats that resulted in a record number of patient records compromised, health organizations extorted financially and hospital operations disrupted. With that in mind, there’s no better time to enter the healthcare cybersecurity field since you will be among the most sought after professionals in the tech sector.

If you’re currently in the cybersecurity space, have you received a number of job offers lately? Please comment below.