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The biggest challenge recruiting IT talent? Convincing them tech work in healthcare can be meaningful

Jefferson Health's Robert Neff said that after breaking through that barrier hiring executives should focus on training and experience.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Having the right IT staff in place is essential. It's especially important in a healthcare industry that increasingly relies on technology to drive efficiency, improve care and achieve the best possible financial outcomes for a given hospital or health system.

But finding the right IT staff, and training them properly, can be a challenge.

Robert Neff, vice president of digital solutions development at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, is part of Jefferson's Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience Group -- the DICE Group -- which builds new technology for Jefferson, and also creates and manages the operational aspects of the digital experience.

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Neff said hospital leaders should consider a number of things when identifying the right IT staff.


"The first challenge is to determine the type of staff you are looking for," said Neff.

One effective approach is to segment the staff -- those who are involved or focused on operations and operational initiatives, versus those who are involved with projects that might include implementations, development, configuration and strategic work.

IT departments include all of those roles, said Neff, and there are also technology roles that exist outside of IT departments. It can be a challenge recruiting for those roles as well.

"The biggest challenge is that many qualified and skilled technology professionals do not expect or consider that they can have a meaningful career working for a health system," said Neff.

Recruiting, or breaking through that barrier, is one of the biggest challenges, he said. So is training, a critical component whose value can't be underestimated.

"Providing training is easy, but finding people who want to be trained and want to learn is much harder," said Neff. "If a staff member is not interested in training related to their role, then they are likely in the wrong role. If a team member is in the right fit for a role, not only are they open to training, they are likely seeking it out and requesting more of it."


The right team members bring a lot of things to the table: technical and interpersonal skills, critical problem solving, you name it. But of prime importance is experience.

That doesn't necessarily have to mean prior work history, said Neff. Some of the best team members have the requisite technical know-how, but bring experience from other companies or industries.

"This experience is critical to ensuring that employees think about problems from new perspectives and leverage solutions that worked well in other industries, but have not yet been applied to healthcare," he said. "So, in short, a new and different perspective that employees bring is very valuable."

Neff will be share some of these insights and more at HIMSS19 in a session titled "Hiring and Retaining the Right Healthcare Technology Staff." It's scheduled for Wednesday, February 13 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in room W315B.

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Twitter: @JELagasse

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