Study Highlights HIO’s Current Workforce Needs, Challenges

As health information exchange organizations (HIO) take the spotlight for their role in healthcare reform and various information exchange programs, HIM professionals have wondered just what skills are required to work for an HIO, and the specific job roles available.

The HIO model is still maturing in the marketplace, which has also created a need to analyze current staffing requirements so the healthcare industry can understand HIO workforce demands and ensure professional talent is ready for open positions.

In a new study jointly published by AHIMA and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), HIO survey participants offered insight into their hiring practices for key health IT and health information management roles with their organizations.

The survey found positions focused on connectivity, data integrity, and data integration were the most in demand positions at HIOs, which covered a wide range of job titles and responsibilities. However, respondents said it’s been difficult to find qualified candidates to fill these positions.

Education requirements for these roles were generally at the bachelor’s or master’s degree levels, with a preference for candidates having a computer science, health IT, telecommunications, or HIPAA/security education concentration.

The study, “Trends in HIE Organizational Staffing: A Deeper Look at Staffing Challenges,” is a follow up to a similar survey conducted in 2012 and offers insight into how the evolving HIO industry has changed as well as its current workforce needs.

Compensation for HIO roles centered on connectivity, data integrity, and data integration were slightly higher than the salaries of other IT roles, the study found. However, the study also showed HIOs are still having trouble competing with other health IT-centered organizations for talent. The top ongoing challenges in staffing at HIOs include cost of living and location of the organization, industry competition for qualified candidates, offering a competitive salary and benefits, and finding individuals with appropriate skill sets.

The HIO positions reported to have the highest rates of turnover were data administrator, HIE implementation manager, HIE project manager, and physician liaison.

HIOs are starting to shift away from the public entity model as federal grant dollars dry up, and toward public/private organizations, according to the study. In a sign of growth for the organizations, HIOs are starting to diversify the entities they exchange health information with, growing their range of HIO participants from 2012 to include payers, behavioral health centers, nursing homes, and accountable care organizations.

“As healthcare organizations become increasingly interconnected through health information exchange, it’s important for the industry to understand how to operate health information exchanges for best results,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA, in a press release. “This survey will provide valuable insights for those who work in organizations that benefit from sharing health information.”

Read the full report in AHIMA’s HIM Body of Knowledge here.


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