Hospitals: Don’t Just Fatten Consultants, Train New Talent

Posted on March 6, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or

I’m going to do some speculation here — when I researched this issue, hard numbers were, well, hard to find — but maybe you’ll find the following to be worth considering.

Right now, every statistic I read suggests that most CIOs feel unprepared to move through the stages of Meaningful Use.

In fact, in a survey by the estimable healthsystemCIO, 46 percent of hospital CIOs reported that they plan to spend a “significant amount” on consultants to meet MU goals, and a whopping 62 percent said that their institutions don’t have the right resources or expertise in place to complete IT projects on their own. Sounds ugly.

On the other hand, though, more than two thirds (69 percent) of respondents said that getting funding in-house for consultants won’t be any harder than securing funds for software investment. Read: the board and C-suite are nervous  enough to throw whatever resources they need at the Meaningful Use problem.

I’d argue that this is a rare opportunity for  chronically understaffed hospitals and CIOs on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  What if, given that the money pump is flowing, hospitals spent some of the money on consultants and some on consultants who can train the right people to be a permanent support.

After all, universities continue to pump out master’s prepared IT graduates, some of whom are aware of the problems hospitals face. There’s  bright young architects and experienced folks from other industries to consider, too.

And what about training physicians with an IT bent to come over to IT full time?  My own contacts suggest that this might work, given that there’s a definite subset of doctors who are geeky types comfortable with technology. (For some reason, this seems to be more common among middle-aged physicians than the old or young, but that might just be my own experiences.)

Even if you try a small pilot program, CIOs, I’d argue that it’d be difficult to lose under these circumstances. If it works, you squeeze more benefits out of your huge consulting investment AND get staffed up further. If it doesn’t, well, nobody expects every pilot project to work, right?