DEC 1, 2011 5:22pm ET

Get a Job


HIMSS, along with the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration, is working on a program to help fill tens of thousands of critical open HIT jobs. Yet we constantly hear very experienced I.T. people complain that they weren't hired for open positions because they weren't nurses, or lack experience with a specific health care application package. This is really unfortunate. Here is the problem and a solution.

First, the medical profession just loves degrees and credentials. It's not uncommon to see a health care professional with a half-dozen degrees, certifications, and affiliations listed behind their names - M.D., PhD., R.N., MBA, FACP, BPOE, OLB.

I.T. professionals rarely have this level of formal education in technology. Most of the best do not have any technical degrees at all.  While many do have certifications in a specific technology or I.T. subject area, they don't "publish" them--unless they work in health I.T.

The best I.T. people tend to not be credentialed. If they have degrees, they're typically in music or the visual arts -lines of study that require being aware of the rhythm of things and non-verbal communications. Computer science degrees are particularly bad fits for I.T. careers--CS degrees should remain in academia. Software engineers work for the I.T. vendors.

Great listeners with terrific problem solving skills are perfect for I.T. For example I would rather have one Data Warehousing Institute Certified Business Intelligence Professional candidate(yes, CBIP) working on ANY health care analytic project than hundreds of Stanford M.D.s, Berkeley PhD.s, Yale JDs, Columbia BSNs or MIT MSEEs.

You do not need a person highly experience in a specific application to implement, enhance or support it. The best implementers have exposure to many different applications in many different businesses. I would much rather hire a person that has done integration and support in warehouse management, a Wall Street trading system, and implemented Oracle Financials or SAP, than one who is the leading expert on Epic --even if the application in my facility was Epic.  (That's why you need people who have great answers for question #7 below.)

Great I.T. people are chameleons (can blend in), problem solvers, well-rounded people who are passionate about helping others.

To help you fill these empty slots here are the interview questions you should be asking:

1) What was the most important thing you did in your last job as an I.T. professional to improve the operating efficiency of the business?

2) What was second most important thing you did in your last job as an I.T. professional to  improve the operating efficiency of the business?

3) What was the third most important thing you did in your last job as an I.T. professional to  improve the operating efficiency of the business?

4) What is the most important thing you did as an I.T. pro to reduce I.T. costs?

5) What is the most important thing you did to increase company revenue?

6) What were the top three things you did to improve user satisfaction with the applications you were involved with?

7) What strategies do you use to get the most out of vendors?

8) If you had it to do all over, what one thing would you have done differently?

9) What is the last book you read?

10) Prussian Field Marshall Helmuth Graf von Moltke once said, "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy." Do you know what he was talking about?

Rob Tholemeier is a research analyst for Crosstree Capital Management in Tampa, Fla., covering the heath I.T. industry. He has over 25 years experience as an information technology investor, research analyst, investment banker and consultant, after beginning his career as a hardware engineer and designer.



Comments (14)
Well done. Someone really needed to publish that point.
Posted by Richard P | Friday, December 02 2011 at 1:36PM ET
Over-focus on experience with a particular application is certainly a part of the complaint about not enough qualified people. Another aspect is just the time: organizations everywhere are so reluctant to hire based on fear of the economic situation. Most large organizations have effective "freezes" on hiring. They aren't official, they just hold decisions on hiring at such a high level that it is effectively a freeze.
Posted by Guy W | Friday, December 02 2011 at 4:14PM ET
Certifications are (often) a crutch, used by screeners or interviewers, when they lack the technical/business/application knowledge to personally decide whether a candidate has the skills and knowledge to fit an advertised need.

As a hiring manager, I NEVER let H.R. screen out ANY application that comes in for a position I'm filling; I personally read them all, and decide who's most interesting.

NOTHING affects your likelihood of success more than the people you hire, so that's way too important to delegate.
Posted by Douglas D | Friday, December 02 2011 at 5:36PM ET
Thank you for this badly needed article. I have been working for months to find another job as an HIT Project Manager after having been let go by an EHR re-seller as they downsized. I have 15 years experience in the financial industry as an IT project manager and workflow re-engineering specialist but I have experience with only one EHR product and I hold no certifications. No one wants to hire me because I have no health care experience, I am not a PMP, not six-sigma certified, not a scrum master, etc. But I am an experienced PM and expert problem solver, an intuitive business thinker and a meticulous planner.

I have shared this article with recruiters from 4 agency I have been working with. These agencies need to understand as well that their client's bias toward degrees can work toward their own detriment.
Posted by CLIFF W | Friday, December 02 2011 at 11:31PM ET
I don't disagree that certifications can obscure a professional's true value in the health IT setting. However, this article is implying there are only two roads: formal clinical training or some type of IT experience. But you are missing a third road that many working in the industry increasingly take: formal education in biomedical/health informatics. Individuals trained in informatics usually understand the intersection between the clinical and IT worlds, and are very effective at implementing and advancing the use of systems. That is certainly what we aim for in our program at Oregon Health & Science University.

William Hersh
Posted by hersh | Saturday, December 03 2011 at 6:55PM ET
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Blog Archive for Rob Tholemeier

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EHR Beyond Meaningful Use: Productivity--Part 2
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