In health care today, value equals quality over cost.

At the start of the HIMSS15 Annual Conference and Exhibition held this spring in Chicago, the question on my mind was: what kinds of talent will organizations working in health care need to create this value?

To find the answer to this question, I spent three full days with 40,000-plus other attendees exploring how organizations – with the aid of information technology (IT) – are improving quality while bending the cost curve.

Quality determined by improved health outcomes and patient experiences

As the health care payer for more than 30 percent of Americans, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were well represented at the educational sessions. CMS emphasized how its quality strategy is beginning to improve health outcomes and patient experiences – the two primary determinants of quality – while making health care more affordable. Kate Goodrich, MD, director of CMS’ quality measurement and health assessment group, explained how a 17% reduction in hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) from 2010 to 2013 has saved 50,000 lives and $12 billion. She also noted that Medicare spending per beneficiary was flat and decreased in inflation-adjusted terms in 2014.

Many other speakers had impressive quality and cost-reduction results to report – made possible by evidence-based treatments, the ability to measure their effectiveness through health IT, and CMS and other payers holding providers financially accountable for quality performance. The quest for health care value has launched tremendous innovations in data gathering, data analytics, clinical decision support, data security, cloud computing, and mobile health, to name just some of the topics exhibited and discussed at length at HIMSS15. Mobile is particularly hot because everything will be linked to mobile devices. In all these areas, organizations are looking for talent that can develop solutions and add value to what they’re doing. They need talent who can answer tough questions such as, “How do make sure personal information available via mobile devices and stored in the cloud is secure?” Organizations know that one misstep – particularly in regard to privacy and security – can spell disaster.

A need for innovation – and investor interest – generally point to a talent gap

While enabling providers to better predict patients at risk for disease and to care for them, innovative health IT tools have created a huge demand for talent, not only among established market leaders but also among new players in the field. There is particular demand for talent with knowledge of emerging technologies – some still in the conceptual stage. For example, applications related to personal health, wellness and fitness are growing rapidly right now.

As a professional who acquires talent for clients, I looked for recurring themes at HIMSS15. Generally, when a field is ripe for innovation and when investors are interested, there’s a talent gap. Hiring is going to flow to where the money is – to what’s going to be profitable in the future and where leadership is in place to make that happen.

Veterans, other job seekers position themselves in the health IT talent marketplace

It was good to see HIMSS leadership dedicate exhibit space to its Veterans Career Services Initiative and to organize a full-day boot camp for veterans transitioning to civilian life. The keynote was delivered by Dawn Halfaker, a decorated veteran who now is the president and CEO of a technology solutions firm. TalentRISE provides military veteran recruitment and consulting services as well, and we’ve partnered with connectvets.org and Shaker to bring the talents of these enormously capable and dedicated women and men to our clients. There’s a demand right now for veterans in transition who have information technology backgrounds. However, some veterans, particularly career military personnel, have a steep learning curve to understanding how to market themselves. Part of it is learning how to translate the resume from what you’ve been doing in the military to the civilian life – for example, in regard to health IT, what programming skills do you have that are high demand right now?

Another interesting aspect of the HIMSS conference was the general networking part. Meeting people at social events and learning about their jobs and career goals was very interesting. For example, a CIOs role has shifted into one that’s very strategic in addition to technical. Today’s CIO must be a visionary – where do we need to be by 2020? And how do we map out that process?

Health care now on the leading-edge of technology innovation

The CIOs that I talked to were knee deep in learning where everything is going. They were there to make sure their organizations were on the right track, or to confirm that they’re ahead of the game. In health care today, computers are located everywhere from the operating room, to the bedside, to the outpatient clinic. All the medical devices, all of the computers – they can all communicate with each other and collect data. At HIMSS15, there were amazing examples of this connectivity extending from hospitals and clinics, to health systems and networks to regional health information exchanges – all made possible by advances in interoperability.

For a long time, health care was perceived as a slow adopter to technology. HIMSS15 showed for me that health care has shaken that stigma. There were more than 40,000 absolutely engaged industry experts there to confirm, to learn, to make connections they needed, or to select vendors for new initiatives. I now view health care as not a slow-to-adopt industry, but more of a leading-edge industry. They’ve embraced mobile, cloud, health and wellness – and they’re finding ways to involve providers and consumers. Health care is much faster on the uptake now when it comes to technology. Organizations in this industry space need to plan for that and make sure their talent pipeline is in place.

Brad Newpoff

About the Author

Brad is a respected executive search consultant with nearly two decades of experience in c-suite and executive recruitment in multiple industries.