September 27, 2023
Solving health IT labor gaps with strategic interoperability partnerships

Broad staffing challenges are a universal obstacle shared by many, especially amid an ongoing global pandemic. Finding talent and keeping positions filled has always been difficult, but Covid-19 was a catalyst for labor fluctuation to invade nearly every industry imaginable. Then came the Great Resignation, which left entire organizations with record-high personnel shortfalls.

The medical sector was not immune. In the past, health labor shortages were mostly due to limited nurses and clinicians in the job market, but the new wave of employee migrations swiftly carried into health organization information technology (IT) departments as well, creating deep talent gaps and greatly reducing technology capabilities across the board. A steep climb in competitive wages and hiring offers further complicates the issue.

A booming job market and growing inflation continue to decimate healthcare IT teams and put significant strain on organizations. Decision makers must do more with fewer people and while upskilling can be a potential solution, it is also a major time and revenue investment.

How can traditional health IT leaders overcome the significant pressures of digital transformation, infrastructure modernization, mergers, acquisitions, cybersecurity threats and more with such diminished staff capabilities? How can digital health and healthcare technology companies compete with conglomerates like Google, Amazon or the thousands of other tech players in the healthcare industry?

The solution: More and more health systems are leaning on strategic interoperability partners with the resources to relieve these burdens and modernize their business models. Interoperability has always been a high-demand skillset, and that need has increased exponentially since the pandemic began, particularly as it relates to cloud acceleration and professional service agreements to reduce staff attrition gaps and minimize upskilling expenses.

Accelerated movement to the cloud

The healthcare industry’s focus on the cloud was nascent prior to the pandemic. Fast forward to today, and it is a high-level priority. Data security has become a critical issue for a sector that was previously very slow to adopt. Leaking sensitive data comes with heavy penalties and the risks are many.

Modernizing with cloud solutions has lasting benefits. It limits infrastructure overhead and helps support potential gaps left by IT staff attrition, which enables healthcare institutions to focus less on data entry and more on patient experience and the organization’s strategic objectives and initiatives. Cloud solutions can manage large volumes of data, ensure security and help ensure business continuity through more seamless scalability, high availability and disaster recovery—all of which are necessary as the industry evolves.

The difficulty here is in finding and retaining internal talent equipped with cloud capabilities and experience. A software engineer who can write code and has credentials to be an AWS cloud practitioner or solutions architect is an invaluable asset and therefore a highly coveted, hot commodity to any talent acquisition team. Hiring in-house not only demands premium pay for those abilities, but also opens the door for other entities to poach prized talent.

Instead, expert integration migrations to the cloud are better obtained by tapping an external source of technology experts to support IT needs—and many organizations are now beginning to look toward fully managed cloud services.

Professional service engagements are on the rise

Many IT leaders understand their staff are specialized and cannot necessarily fill added roles. It is difficult to utilize existing talent to cover all IT needs, particularly with the rate at which technology changes and evolves. By utilizing professional service engagements, organizations can alleviate the predicament of limited IT labor through integration projects, system upgrades and migrations, staff augmentation, training and more.

Outsourcing allows health IT departments to deploy expertise for the problems they struggle to solve internally. Staff augmentation requests have increased five-fold for exactly that reason, with agreement duration spreading from several months to a year. More and more health IT leaders are recognizing the flexibility and optimization opportunities that professional managed service providers extend to an organization.

The right interoperability partner has the expertise and experience to step in right away, across a variety of legacy technology environments—even if they didn’t build out the workflows and specific interfaces. It can be a seamless experience with the potential to get projects resolved in a timely manner (without added headaches).

Engaging in such a strategic partnership positions health IT leaders to focus on what’s needed internally, whether that’s cybersecurity, enhancing product or technology, or trying to meet new or changing compliance regulations. IT outsourcing with an aligned interoperability partner is a simple way to lift the burden of compliance, regulation and security off an often small and limited internal IT team.

How to identify the right interoperability partner

Leveraging a reliable outsourcing affiliate to implement cloud technology and deploy added professional technology services benefits a healthcare IT department in numerous ways. The key is finding the right partner to ensure long-term success.

Here are six things to look for in a vendor interoperability partner when outsourcing:

  • Ability to get the job done right: Get a clear understanding of their capabilities and investment. Will they be able to scale for your organization? To answer this question, it’s important to start with your system’s main goals and objectives, internal KPIs and the overall desired outcome.
  • Security specialties: Inquire about cybersecurity measures. How are they tracking different regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services? Do they have external governance and credentials? You need to know that your vendor (and even your vendor’s vendor) adheres to the strictest security requirements.
  • Level of responsiveness: An interoperability partner, and more specifically your designated account management team, should be highly responsive. Is the solution architect delivering what was promised? Are realistic timelines that meet your organizational needs being set? Many of these questions can be answered in the RFP phase or during the customer onboarding process.
  • Industry knowledge: Do they have in-depth knowledge and experience in the engagements your health system requires? Do they understand the specific needs of the healthcare space, especially relating to compliance and privacy?
  • Experience and skillsets: Does the vendor have breadth, depth and history in the types of engagement you need? What customers have they served? What workflows have they supported? What systems are they connected to?
  • A continual learning mentality: Do they take care of their employees and invest in ongoing training around new technologies? Is there a strong culture of learning and team dynamics? Are they committed to the entire skillset lifecycle for their team members?

Solve your IT labor gap through modernization and external support

Healthcare IT decision makers have incredible responsibilities and organizational goals to meet, and the recent labor gap has presented them with even more challenges. However, there is a way to move beyond this predicament toward a more successful future—and that’s by choosing and relying on a strategic interoperability partner for cloud services, IT support and other professional managed service needs.

Photo: ipopba, Getty Images