We have undoubtedly entered a new era in work styles and employment opportunities. From the “Gig Economy” to the COVID-19 pandemic, to the prevalence of work-from-home/remote positions, the days of working for a single employer, in an office, for the majority of one’s career are behind us...for better or worse. Careers in healthcare IT are not immune, and in fact, more and more experts in technology solutions for hospitals are embracing the changing tides and opting for consultative work and contract opportunities, including staff augmentation work. So what exactly is staff augmentation? We hear that a lot in healthcare IT, from large hospital systems to private clinical practices, and it’s worth making sense of what staff aug is (and what it isn’t), how it can benefit healthcare clients, and how to best leverage this unique arrangement to hire some of the best and brightest minds in the industry.
Staff Augmentation as a Lifestyle Choice for Seasoned Healthcare IT Experts
Before we dive into the practical benefits of a staff augmentation model for hospitals, it’s important to understand why someone would opt for non-traditional employment. Typically, contractors or even direct-hire resources are available for staff augmentation work by choice. They’re not between jobs; staff aug is their job. Articles and research abound regarding the benefits of opting out of the long days, stuck behind a desk, slogging away at the same task for days on end. Instead, many healthcare IT professionals take the experience gained from conventional positions and either deepen their knowledge to become masters in a given skill set (such as EHR implementation project management), or they continue to broaden their experience to become a jack(or jill)-of-all-trades. Regardless, a decision is made to become a staff augmentation resource of value for the purpose of marketing themselves as an expert-for-hire.
What does this Mean for Healthcare IT Clients?
The wonderful benefit to clients who hire independent experts is that you’re getting a fresh set of eyes, incredible experience with a variety of clients and applications and the flexibility to utilize a pro for as long or as little as needed. Hospitals can buckle under the pressure and costs of carrying a full-time team of healthcare IT experts to manage their network, infrastructure, cybersecurity, EHR interfaces, special projects and more. So how much more effective is it for everyone to tap into the most experienced resources out there, just as needed?
The terms of the relationship are flexible and designed to make sense for both the client and the resource. It’s a win-win, and for those willing to embrace this new model of employment, it can pay dividends in IT projects that stay on schedule and snafus avoided by having the right people in the right seats.
Staff Augmentation for Health Technology Clients
Staff augmentation refers to hiring resources for specific terms and tasks based on a need. This may take the form of a year-long contract, a direct-hire arrangement, an on-call backup, or many other combinations of people, time and money. Staff augmentation may be budgeted against a SOW for a stated period of time, or occurs in such ad hoc means as a flat rate per outreach and response. The key point is that it’s between the client and the healthcare IT professional/staffing firm to determine what is needed and how to come to an arrangement to exchange expertise for need, specific to a problem that needs to be solved or a project that needs to be executed.
The Challenge of Finding Good Healthcare IT Resources in an Age of Remote Work
Hiring full-time staff is difficult and, honestly, increasingly difficult for health systems as many of the best developers, DevOps, testers and project managers are enticed by contract work and favor staff augmentation assignments to support their lifestyle. For example, many developers have spent years working from home (or wherever else they choose) because of how common that is in IT. The idea of commuting to an office, donning business casual and sitting in a cubicle is not attractive to many of these folks. This is a serious barrier for attracting the best talent available, which is ultimately what every administrator wants. Specialists in cybersecurity, as another example, are able to name their terms and are far less likely to become a W-2 employee; instead, they prefer to remain 1099 contractors who can work against a given arrangement for a fixed period of time, while still working with other clients or pursuing their interests (professional or otherwise).
A Mindset Shift to Embrace Staff Augmentation for Hospitals
Admittedly, it’s a significant shift in mindset for hospitals accustomed to the traditional model of employment and operations. There may be security concerns with offsite work, while some may see the opportunity to minimize physical presence near medical records and the like for resources who have no need to access PHI. Regardless, there’s a sea of fantastic resources available for hire for those organizations that are willing to embrace the trend and view staff augmentation as a premium benefit for their healthcare IT projects.