May 24, 2016 Ask Owen

5 Hospital Executives Advice on Building Epic EHR Teams

The decision to buy and implement an Epic EHR is typically one of the largest strategic investments a provider will make, and much of the cost is an investment in people.

A large-scale Epic implementation requires the significant hiring and training of hundreds of IT professionals to design, build, maintain, upgrade and optimize the EHR.

Challenges of Hiring Epic Professionals

For most providers, hiring quality Epic professionals at scale presents a number of challenges, especially in the highly competitive Epic talent market. So what can providers do to attract quality Epic professionals and what are some best practices to retain Epic talent for the long-term?

To answer these questions, Healthcare IT Leaders, an Atlanta-based health IT staffing firm has released a new report, Building an Epic Team:  An Insider’s Guide to Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining Epic-Skilled IT Professionals. The report is based on the staffing firm’s own experience and

Expert Advice from Senior Healthcare Executives

Additionally, the report shares the following expert advice from senior healthcare executives who have built their own high-performing Epic teams at some of the nation’s top hospitals:

Hire the Right Leader

Sue Schade

“The leadership of your Epic program is the most important role that you will hire. It’s not for the faint of heart. This individual must have the right soft skills as well as the experience level and broad knowledge base required for success. They have to be able to partner with the right people and drive to the Go Live”, said Sue Schade, Interim CIO at University Hospitals.

Recruit the Ninjas

David Keith MD

“Every Epic analyst isn’t created equal. You may see an analyst who has only worked for one company for a few years and they’ve only done one thing. Compare them to an analyst who has worked on three or four projects and has multiple certifications and has done a plethora of things with the software. Those are the people I am trying to recruit. I want the Ninjas,” said David Keith, MD, VP of Epic Optimization at Sutter Health.

Plan Beyond Implementation

Charles Podesta, CIO at UC Irvine Health.News of a new Epic client or implementation travels quickly on the HIT grapevine. So one of the quickest and simplest ways to attract prospective candidates is to announce publically that you are implementing Epic and hiring to support the project.

“Some hospitals fall down after their Go Live because they want to cut costs. Start having conversations with your leadership on what your post-live support model will look like after the implementation. It’s never too early to begin defining the resources and budget you need to make that successful,” said Charles Podesta, CIO at UC Irvine Health.

Dedicate Hiring Resources

Jamie Nelson, CIO of Hospital for Special Surgery
Some Epic roles are hard to fill. If the module is new or uncommon, the skilled talent pool may be limited. Or you may require a unique combination of skills and certifications that are hard to find in a single individual. ou may feel like you’re searching for a unicorn, but our experts say there are ways to find good candidates for almost any position.

“Having a full-time, dedicated HR recruiter is so beneficial in managing the sheer volume of applicants and activity. We outsourced some of our recruiting, but even managing those vendors is a full time job. Sorting through resumes and making package and salary decisions is a tremendous amount of work. Hospitals can underestimate the amount of time it takes to mount a quality recruiting effort,” said Jamie Nelson, CIO of Hospital for Special Surgery.

Monitor Vacancy Rates

Veronica Zaman Scripps Health
Scripps Health has proven up to challenge of building a large-scale Epic team for its ongoing, multi-year implementation. Faced with an aggressive start date, Veronica Zaman, Corporate Vice President, Human Resources and Learning, along with the rest of the Scripps Health leadership team, built a hiring plan to bring on 150 permanent and contract resources in three months. With Scripps’ first phase of hiring now complete, we share some of Veronica’s best advice and experience.

“We are always looking at our vacancies. When a vacancy reaches a near-critical status, I want to know why and what are our action steps to create candidate pipeline and fill the position. Why? Because it could affect the rollout of a particular phase in Epic,” said Veronica Zaman, Corporate Vice President of Human Resources and Learning at Scripps Health.

Best Practices for Epic Recruiting & Hiring Success

The report presents a step-by-step guide for Epic recruiting and expert tips for hiring success with these 8 best practices:

1. Start with a plan. Your internal hiring plan should be mapped to key implementation dates. Create a dedicated hiring team with representation from senior management, IT, HR and other departments (clinical, finance) involved with the Epic project.

2. Create your ideal Epic org chart. Determine, as best possible, all of the contract and full-time roles required for your implementation and put them onto an org chart. Group the roles by key functions and highlight those that are a priority for project initiation.

3. Hire from inside—and outside. Many organizations fill up to half or more of their permanent Epic positions with internal employees who receive Epic training. Epic-certified external hires are equally critical for their deep Epic knowledge and past implementation experience.

4. Publicize Your Hiring Efforts. Spreading the word about your project stimulates candidate interest. Highly publicized, desirable implementations attract skilled talent from across the country.

5. Embrace consultants. Most large-scale Epic projects rely, to some extent, on hourly contract consultants. They are quicker to onboard and provide a flexible bridge to permanent hires.

6. Don’t skimp on pay and benefits. Competitive salaries are critical for attracting talent. Be prepared to stretch salary bands. Benchmark pay at other local Epic hospitals and use bonuses or other incentives as added sweeteners.

7. Interviewing must be efficient and organized. Efficient pre-screening and interviewing are keys to building a large team quickly. Internal stakeholders must block out time for interviewing to avoid becoming a bottleneck. Make decisive hiring decisions so top talent doesn’t slip away.

8. Have a retention plan or lose your top talent. Hiring without a strategy to keep your employees engaged for the long-haul is short-sighted. Keep employees loyal with a multi-pronged retention plan that addresses financial need, lifestyle and career goals.

Hiring institutions should be prepared to up their game. As David Keith Butler, MD, VP, Epic Optimization, Sutter Health told us:  “I don’t think we’ve ever had to compete this hard in the history of Healthcare for talented IT resources.”

This article originally appeared here.

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