How to Hire an IT Manager – Part 1

IT managerAbout 8 years ago or so, our practice decided to move from paper records to electronic records. The decision was helped along by the fact that we were literally running out of space for our paper charts. I had been looking at electronic medical records systems (EMRs) for years prior to this but could not justify the cost to my partners – apart from the “gee-whiz” factor – until we were up against the wall, so to speak. Our administrator had previously worked in a non-profit where he met an individual who was doing contract information technology (IT) work and recommended we hire him to help us achieve our goal of having a paperless practice.

Fast forward to today. We implemented EMR in our practice at the end of 2008 and performed a gradual rollout to minimize the impact on the clinics and thus the bottom line. We were able to start adding new patients with no significant effect on our efficiency and have subsequently added other patient types to the mix. Our IT Director, who spear-headed this project, commuted from almost an hour away the eight years that he was with us; alas, this eventually took its toll and he decided to leave us and take a position closer to home.

Since we are approaching the deadline for meaningful use of EMR, we felt this was a critical position to fill – and soon. In a practice our size, the IT Director is the next most important person after the Administrator and the Chief Operating Office or Assistant Administrator. And since we were already running on EMR, though not yet at 100%, time was of the essence. Fortunately, we had two other IT employees who could keep things running during our search.

As physicians and medical practice administrators we feel pretty comfortable with the thought of having to recruit, interview, and hire a new medical associate. There are professional head-hunter firms that can throw resumes your way and even help vet potential candidates. We know what questions to ask, what skills are important, and we know how to tell whether or not an applicant is the real deal. The problem with trying to hire an IT director is that we don’t know what questions to ask, what skills are important, and we probably can’t easily identify someone passing himself off as an expert when he’s not (this position was open to applicants from both genders, though 99% happened to be male). By the way, if you happen to be in IT and looking for a job, here is a good article on the 5 Tips for Becoming a Successful IT Manager.

Our next step was to consult with our extended family of experts: my brother, who oversaw an IT department, and the spouse of one of our partners, who works for a major software company. We all decided that any potential candidates would need to be vetted by someone who was in the IT industry even before our experienced management team performed any interviews. It is difficult to verify the credentials of people in this field – MNS, ACE, ACTP, CCNA, CCNP, MCP, CNX, LPIC, LCSE, OCP, WAN-ACE, CSTE, to name but a very few [if you really want to see your head spin, here is a more complete list of IT certifications ]. After our conference call, we had our plan of action.

Next: How to Hire an IT Manager – Part 2

About Peter Polack

Peter J Polack is founder of emedikon, a medical practice management consulting firm and president of protodrone, a software development company specializing in medical practice applications. A technology columnist for Ophthalmology Management Magazine, he is a managing partner for a large multi-specialty ophthalmology practice in Florida.

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