Building tomorrow's healthcare IT workforce

State-of-the-art talent in health IT is vital to the future of the healthcare industry. Health information-sharing is rapidly extending to support telemedicine, predictive medicine, and population health; address social determinants of health; and facilitate remote monitoring of patient and family-generated data, including data from personal medical devices.

“Experience is the biggest leak in the pipeline today,” explained Lauren Kosowski, service delivery consultant at Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services. “When looking for fulltime staff we expect candidates to have some type of experience in the field or position they are applying for – but how can we anticipate them to have that experience if we are not the ones providing them with those opportunities?”

Right now, she said she is seeing a big spike in health informatics, a rapidly emerging discipline that can assist in the use of information technology for better decision making and better patient outcomes.

She said the need for and adoption of health IT skyrocketed last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—and she doesn’t anticipate for that to slow down any time soon.

Kosowski, who is scheduled to speak about her work this Tuesday at HIMSS21, explained the Interoperability Institute’s Workforce Program features formal partnerships with academic programs to ensure a foundation for learning experiences.

This is enhanced by the Interoperability Institute’s lab and partnerships with technology incubators which enable the application of real world, hands-on experiences – for both student associates and mentors.

She said one they have improved our process of finding the right candidates is doing exploratory calls instead of basic phone screenings.

“Our internship program was created with the intention of strengthening our talent pipeline entirely,” she said. “With that goal in mind, we structure our program in a way that allows students to get real world experience in the industry they hope to one day be an integral part of.”

Kosowski said switching out phone interviews for exploratory calls allows them to take a deeper dive with each potential candidate, with a focus on their respective career goals and where they would like to see themselves five to 10 years’ time.

“This does a few things: first and foremost, it helps the students identify exactly what they want to be doing with their education post-graduation–even if they didn’t have a clear idea to start with,” she explained. “Secondly, it gives employers a much larger and more reliable candidate pool because they are less likely to lose talent to a different opportunity that better aligns with their career goals.”

Kosowski said the biggest thing to keep in mind when running an internship program designed to strengthen the internal talent pipeline is that it’s all about the students.

“Of course, we still want to ensure that our interns have a good work ethic and challenge them in their positions – but we also want to retain them,” she said. “We pride ourselves on giving our interns as much exposure to this industry as possible, paying them a fair wage, and treating them with the same respect as full-time employees.”

She pointed out setting up formal apprenticeship and mentoring programs softens the steep learning curve that is inevitable in the field of health IT.

“Navigating this industry on your own can be difficult–even if you have years of experience,” she said, noting all interns are placed with an internal mentor.

The mentorship program offers a structured setting in which interns and mentors develop mutually beneficial one-on-one professional relationships, where mentors have the opportunity to encourage and advise students by sharing their own experiences and knowledge, and students gain insight and perspective into the health information industry.

“Today’s students are tomorrow’s future leaders,” she said. “We firmly believe that the best thing an organization can do to increase their internal talent pipeline is to offer entry level experience. We can’t keep expecting recent graduates to come into this industry with years of experience if we aren’t willing to offer it to them.”

Lauren Kosowski will share some more best practices in her session, “Building Tomorrow’s Healthcare IT Workforce.” It’s scheduled for Tuesday, August 10, from 4-4:30 p.m. in room Marcello 4501.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
Email the writer: [email protected]
Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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