Hospitals, Non-Acute Providers Greatly Differ in IT Leadership Employment, HIMSS Study Finds

Feb. 12, 2019
Important findings were unveiled in the 2019 HIMSS Leadership and Workforce Survey

More than half of non-acute providers do not employ an information and technology leader, resulting in remarkably different experiences between hospitals and non-acute provider organizations when dealing with these professionals, according to the 2019 HIMSS Leadership and Workforce Survey.

The research from HIMSS, which conducts the survey annually, was released this week at the HIMSS19 conference in Orlando, and included 269 U.S. health information and technology leaders (232 from a healthcare provider organization; 37 from a health IT vendor/consulting organization).

While roughly 90 percent of hospital respondents indicated their organization employed at least one information and technology executive, over half (53 percent) of non-acute respondents (e.g. ambulatory clinics; long-term/post-acute care providers) reported that their organization employed “none” of the executives listed—inclusive of CIOs; senior clinical IT leaders such as CMIOs, CNIOs and CHIOs; senior information security leaders, such as a CISOs; chief technology officers; chief innovation officers; or chief transformation officers.

For hospitals, when isolating respondent experiences, two executive groups emerge as the most common type of information and technology executives employed in hospital settings; CIOs (84 percent) and senior clinical IT leaders (68 percent). Information security leaders (56 percent) have emerged as a third notable member of the hospital leadership team. In fact, of the top three information and technology executive roles hospitals tend to employ, only the senior information security leader role experienced a notable increase (14 percent) between 2018 and 2019.

According to the HIMSS researchers, on this finding, “The lack of an executive leader to champion information and technology activities in non-acute provider organizations presents as a significant barrier to the advancement of information and technology capabilities in non-acute provider settings. Given the information and technology advances occurring in hospital settings, the absence of information and technology leaders in non-acute provider settings has the potential to widen the gap between these two provider environments.”

Indeed, non-acute respondents were surprisingly less passionate about key issues involving non-institutionalized populations—such as population health and public health, telehealth, and consumer engagement and digital health—than their hospital peers. According to the researchers, “As hospital leaders increasingly look to influence the health of populations ‘outside the walls’ of their buildings, they will need to work with community providers. That non-acute providers were less passionate about many of the community issues considered in this survey than their hospital peers were, suggests hospital leaders may be challenged in activating non-acute providers on select community initiative.

Other key findings from the survey included:

  • “Cybersecurity, privacy, and security” and “improving quality outcomes through health information and technology” are top priorities by all respondent groups with hospital respondents demonstrating a notable intensity around “cybersecurity, privacy, and security” as a priority.
  • Providers (81 percent) and vendors (59 percent) are generally aligned regarding information and technology resource demand expectations for the coming year.
  • The health IT workforce profile for vendors and hospitals has remained fairly consistent during the past three years with workforce challenges continuing to negatively impact hospitals while appearing to be subside somewhat for vendors.

All respondents were asked a series of questions surrounding their organization’s health IT workforce. In comparing the responses of hospital and non-acute respondents, it becomes evident that these two groups have very different health IT workforce experiences and expectations, according to the study.

Non-acute providers present as fairly limited in health IT workforce opportunities (they tend to be fully staffed and are static in the past/projected staffing efforts), whereas hospitals reflect high growth areas (they tend to have open positions they are looking to fill and are on a growth trajectory).