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From Epic Staffer To Epic Consultant

Posted on May 11, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Since many readers may have considered such a move, I was interested to read an interview with a woman who had transitioned from an Epic-based staff position at hospital to a consulting gig. Here are some of the steps she took, which offer food for thought for those who might want to follow in her footsteps.

Prior to going into Epic consulting, Pam (no last name given) had worked full time as a Clindoc/Stork analyst, specializing in Reporting Workbench and Radar dashboards. The hospital where she worked with deploying Epic for the first time as their EMR solution, a three-year project spanning 14 hospitals in her health system. Prior to that, Pam had worked in both IT and in the ICU as an RN.

Before she agreed to take the consulting position, which requires her to travel to the northeast once a week, Pam weighed the effect all the required travel would have on her spouse and family, as well as her elderly parents and in-laws.

She also bore her financial situation in mind. While she knew she could earn more as an Epic consultant than she could as a staff member, she also wouldn’t have access to company benefits such as retirement plans, health insurance, and paid sick days and vacation time. (Now that she’s consulting, Pam works with a financial analyst to create a personal retirement plan.)

To market herself as a consultant, Pam began by updating a resume to reflect the most current experience, including, obviously, her Epic experience. She researched Epic consulting firms in sent her resume to those that seemed appropriate. She also pulled together her personal and professional references, getting their permission to be contacted by firms interested in learning more about her. Then she worked with recruiters and consulting firms to capture her desired position.

One cautionary note from her story: Despite her experience level, as well as her having obtained in additional Epic proficiency and badge, she didn’t get a job immediately. In fact, it took her seven months to find an opportunity that fit her skills, a period she calls “long and difficult.” But she tells the interviewer that all the effort was worth it.

A few comments from the peanut gallery: While Pam has done well, the ending of the story — that she ended up waiting nearly a year to get her Epic job — came as a surprise to me. Yes, we are not in the absolute heyday of Epic consulting, as we were a few years ago, I would’ve assumed that an experienced professional with both clinical and IT background would’ve been snapped up much more quickly.

After all, while most hospitals may have made their big initial EMR outlay, maintaining those bad boys is an ongoing issue, and last I heard few have the resources to do so without outside help. Not only that, I doubt Epic has begun to hand out certifications like fortune cookies.

So why would there be a glut of Epic consultants, if there is in fact one? All I can think is that 1) the prevalence of Epic installations has led to more trained people being available, and 2) that hospitals have figured out how to maintain their Epic systems without as much outside help as they once had.

Either way, there may be a warning in this otherwise upbeat story. If you are thinking about hanging out your shingle as a Epic consultant, you may want to check out demand before you do. You may also want to spend some time searching through the Epic and other Healthcare IT jobs on Healthcare IT Central.

Meditech EHR Market Share

Posted on November 25, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently got subscribed to the Navin, Haffty & Associates email newsletter. The title on their website claims they’re the “Largest and Most Respected MEDITECH consulting firm.” I’ll let you decide on those two counts, but they’re clearly all in as a consulting firm with MEDITECH. In their latest newsletter John Haffty, President of Navin, Haffty & Associates, shared some statistics on MEDITECH market share that I thought might be of interest to readers:

Statistically speaking, MEDITECH has over 2,400 clients. The number of MEDITECH clients by platform is outlined below:
Client/Server – 1,056
MAGIC – 848
6.x – 546

Over the past five years 285 clients have been added, 137 of which implemented 6.x. Clients often add their existing platform as they acquire hospitals and this has resulted in the addition of 22 MAGIC and 126 Client/Server sites. In addition, MEDITECH has signed 31 organizations for the new Ambulatory product. Of the 546 Ambulatory 6.x sites, 279 have chosen 6.1, with some already LIVE.

MEDITECH’s market share for hospitals by bed size demonstrates a strong industry presence:

23% – under 99 beds
36% – 100-199 beds
36% – 200-299 beds
27% – 300-399 beds
17% – 400+ beds

I’ve long argued that MEDITECH was still a sleeping giant in the EHR space. Epic and Cerner gets most of the headlines, but MEDITECH still has a massive market share. Of course, after CPSI’s acquisition of Healthland today, it looks like CPSI wants to play as well.

Healthcare Analytics is Everything and Nothing

Posted on January 13, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Healthcare Analytics has been the buzzed word ever since last year’s HIMSS. It’s been included in pretty much every healthcare IT company imaginable. I was talking to an EHR consulting company today and I asked if they were moving into some sort of analytics offering. As we discussed the idea further, we realized that they’re not really going into healthcare analytics specifically, but that many of the projects they see as the future of healthcare IT involve analytics.

As I think over this discussion, it’s easy for me to see how healthcare analytics is involved in everything, but that the term itself means nothing.

If I dive a little deeper into this subject it reminds me of a video interview I watched last night with a popular venture capitalist. At one point in the conversation he casually said, “Once again it goes back to the data. I guess it all goes back to the data, because we think data is at the core of the future of everything we’re investing in.”

While this comment didn’t necessarily apply to healthcare, it very could have been about healthcare. The future of healthcare is about the data. It’s about how an organization leverages data to improve the care they provide a patient. EHR was just the first step in making much of the healthcare data digital. However, this new wave of wearables and health sensors is bringing another form of data to healthcare. Genomics is bringing another wave of data to healthcare. Watson is reading through all the medical studies and making that data useful and actionable for a doctor.

It’s easy for me to say that the future of healthcare is going to be dependent on data. It’s at the core of everything that we will do. Going full circle, healthcare analytics is one way of describing how you take the data and make it useful. So, it makes sense that however you look at the future of healthcare IT, you probably have some sort of healthcare analytics involved in what you’re doing. It’s all about how you slice the data.

The Changing Health IT Consulting Job Market

Posted on October 15, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Cassie Sturdevant has a great post up on Healthcare IT Today titled “The New Health IT Consulting Skill Set.” In the post, she talks about the changing Health IT market for consultants. She’s absolutely right that between 2010-2012 it was a white hot market and that the market has since cooled down. As she mentions, that means that clients can be much more selective in who their hire. Then, she outlines a few ways to differentiate yourself as a consultant:

  1. Operations or Clinical Background
  2. Communication Skills
  3. Multi-Faceted Knowledge

Those are some good suggestions and if you read the full article, you can find more details from Cassie on each suggestion. If I were to summarize Cassie’s suggestions, it would be that healthcare organizations will need someone with a much deeper knowledge of EHR and Healthcare IT than they had to have previously.

As I look at the healthcare consulting market going forward, I see two major areas of opportunities: EHR switching and EHR optimization.

EHR Switching – Since the majority of hospitals have now implemented some form of EHR, the new EHR implementation market is drying up. However, that’s not to say that we won’t see a lot of new EHR purchases. These new EHR Purchases will instead be hospitals that are buying a new EHR. This EHR switching takes a lot of effort and skills to do it properly. Plus, it takes an organization that has a deep understanding of both the legacy and new EHR software. Watch for the EHR switching to really spike post-meaningful use.

EHR Optimization – This is a really broad area of work. However, so many of the EHR implementations were done on shortened timelines that almost no EHR optimization occurred during the implementation. This presents a major opportunity. Every organization is going to be looking for ways that they can extract more value out of their EHR investment. Consultants that have deep knowledge about how to get this value will be in high demand.

It’s still an exciting time to be in healthcare IT with lots of opportunities. It’s not the gold rush that it was, but there is still plenty of opportunity to do amazing things with an organization’s healthcare IT.

If you’re looking for a healthcare IT job, be sure to check out these Health IT company job postings:

If your organization is looking for some healthcare IT talent, check out our Healthcare IT central career website.

Do Consulting Firms Increase or Decrease Your Bottom Line?

Posted on July 25, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been learning a lot more about the Health IT and EHR consulting industry as I work with many of them who post jobs on our Health IT job board. In fact, I’ve written previously asking the question, “Are Most EHR Consulting Companies Really Staffing Companies?” The reality is that many of the so called consulting companies out there are much more like staffing companies than they are consultants. It’s just a lot more sexy to call someone a consultant than a temporary staff member. Plus, it’s hard to charge the rates they do as a temporary staff member, but a consultant seems to justify the higher rates.

I should make clear that there’s nothing wrong with this approach to business. Many healthcare organizations need the temporary staff that consulting companies provide. However, it has diluted the term consulting quite a bit in the process.

If you’re looking for a good way to know what type of consulting company you’re working with consider this question: Does the Consulting Firm Increase or Decrease Your Bottom Line?

The reality is that consultants are expensive. It costs money to get someone to come in and share their time and expertise with you. Plus, when you look at how many “billable hours” a consultant has available to them with travel, finding business, etc, they have to charge a premium to make up that time. However, just because something costs money doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it.

If I told you that you could spend $50,000 and you would save $200,000, every one of you would do it. If I asked you if you’d spend $100,000 in order to generate $500,000 in increased revenue you’d all be interested. This is the model a great consultant provides. Sure, the numbers are projections of value and that what makes it difficult. Although, many consultants are hired these days to complete specific tasks as opposed to provide ROI. That’s how you can quickly recognize the difference between a true consultant and a temporary staff.

The challenge consulting companies face is that it’s much easier to prove that tasks were complete. It’s much harder to really impact a company’s bottom line.

$11 Billion DoD EHR Contract

Posted on May 1, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Nextgov has a great article up which outlines many of the details of the soon to be bid out Healthcare Management Systems Modernization contract. I’d prefer to call it the DoD EHR Contract or AHLTA replacement contract. Certainly there’s more to it than EHR, but that will be the core of the contract and the big name EHR vendors will all be involved.

Here’s a section of the article which gives you an idea of the size of the contract:

The DHMSM contract’s estimated lifecycle value is approximately $11 billion and would include initial operating capabilities by 2017 and full functionality by 2023, according to Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, who testified in February before the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel.

Even in Washington, $11 billion is a lot of money, and it would surely rank among the largest IT-related contracts in government. What’s unique about this effort is that the Pentagon wants a single contractor to lead the integration of a commercial electronic health records system to cover its nearly 10 million beneficiaries and large assortment of health care facilities worldwide. Defense is one of the largest health care providers in the country, on par in size with the Veterans Affairs Department and private sector leaders like Kaiser Permanente.

The article also states that they want to issue a contract with one vendor. We’ll see how that plays out. I’ve seen some rumors out there about who will be bidding. No doubt it will be a combination of the usual government contractors and EHR consultant companies together with EHR vendors like Epic and Cerner.

What’s going to be really interesting is the VA and its Vista EHR (Vista Evolution) is said to be bidding on the contract as well. We’ll see if they’re the only Vista bid or if others join in as well.

Here’s another great insight into the DoD EHR Contract:

Major data gaps in patient records occur when health care is delivered to beneficiaries outside the DOD network, and today approximately half of DOD’s 9.8 million beneficiaries receive their health care outside the network.

This was an obvious complaint of the AHLTA system. The DoD and VA couldn’t even get their EHR systems to be interoperable. I’m not optimistic that interoperability will be obtainable even under this new contract. That includes DoD to VA interoperability, let alone trying to connect with the care the DoD beneficiaries receive outside the DoD network.

I realize that nothing with the DoD health system is simple. Its an enormous system with all sorts of crazy government regulations. However, I’d hope for $11 billion, we could do better than we’re doing for our veterans.

At HIMSS, I talked with a largely military EHR vendor. They told me that they were close to being able to exchange records between different locations. That’s right. At HIMSS 2014 the amazing breakthrough was that 2 locations with the same EHR software were close to being able to exchange data.

Managing Legacy Health IT Systems

Posted on January 28, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the realities of healthcare IT is the mass of legacy healthcare IT systems that an organization has to support. I remember one hospital CIO saying that they had over 100 different health IT systems in their organization that they were supporting. Now expand that over the years and you can imagine how many of those systems get replaced and the old legacy system has to be supported.

I’m sure many are asking why they don’t just sunset the system. In many cases there are regulations and laws around how long you have to retain the healthcare data that’s stored in these systems. Other times there isn’t a good way to get the data out of the legacy system and the organization still needs access to the data. Regardless of the reason, every hospital has a number of legacy systems.

A little while ago I was talking with a consulting company and they pointed out something really interesting. Many times hospitals find themselves in a situation where they have a legacy system they have to support, but all their expertise in that legacy system has moved on from the organization. It turns out that this presents a great opportunity for these consulting companies to leverage the legacy software experience of their consultants. Many of these consulting companies do amazingly well just consulting on legacy systems. It’s amazing.

In my G+ hangout today, we also touched on this topic. The question of how to host the legacy system is often an important consideration. In the video interview, Jason Mendenhall pointed out that for legacy system’s, you often don’t want to move it to some new high end cloud infrastructure. In fact, it’s very likely that it’s not even possible. However, it’s nice to have all your health IT hosted in a place that can support the full gamut of needs from legacy servers to high end cloud computing.

I’d love to hear more about people’s strategy when it comes to legacy applications. Also, can we learn from our current experience that will help avoid future legacy application misery?