The Epic Dilemma: Navigating Talent Challenges in the Health IT Landscape

In the intricate world of Electronic Health Records (EHR), Epic stands as a towering giant, employing approximately 13,000 individuals. Given the crucial role of IT in healthcare, one might expect fierce competition for talent among health systems, but a closer look reveals a different story. Hospital CIOs have disclosed a unique challenge — Epic’s airtight non-compete agreements that discourage employees from transitioning to client health systems.


The Non-compete Conundrum

According to Don Reichert, Vice President of Information Services at ProHealth Care in Wisconsin told Becker’s, departing Epic employees face non-compete agreements ranging from six months to two years. This obstacle is a significant deterrent, dissuading individuals from considering opportunities with hospital systems.


Epic Veterans Find a Detour

Epic veterans, seeking alternatives to direct employment with health systems, often become consultants. Health systems contract these experienced professionals temporarily to address specific needs or projects. Children’s Nebraska, for example, leverages Epic contractors to propel projects forward or manage maintenance backlogs, emphasizing their deep understanding of Epic’s modules.


Rather than competing directly with Epic for talent, health systems find themselves vying with each other for Epic-experienced professionals. The uniqueness of this competition lies in the fact that it is not on an equal playing field. Dayton Children’s CIO J.D. Whitlock highlights a growing trend where health systems in high-cost areas lure remote talent from lower-cost regions, driven by CMS’ wage index system.


The Wage Index Quandary

CMS’ wage index system, which ties Medicare reimbursements to regional pay levels, contributes to the disparity. While this benefits Epic-certified analysts in high-cost-of-living areas, it poses challenges for health systems in rural regions struggling with staffing and financial constraints.


The Talent Tug-of-War

Health systems in areas with higher living costs attract talent from regions with lower costs by offering competitive salaries, sign-on bonuses, and enhanced benefits. For instance, Aultman Health Foundation in Ohio has witnessed employees leaving for remote positions with fellow Oracle Health EHR customers, enticed by better financial incentives.


Geography and Culture Factors

Geography and corporate culture also play pivotal roles. Epic and Oracle Health, headquartered in southern Wisconsin and Kansas City, respectively, have predominantly on-site employees. The reluctance to uproot their lives for distant health systems, combined with differences in organizational culture, contributes to the one-sided nature of talent movement.

The intricate dance of talent in the health IT landscape reflects a delicate balance of non-compete agreements, wage disparities, and corporate cultures. As health systems navigate these challenges, they must find innovative solutions to attract and retain skilled professionals, ensuring the seamless integration of EHR systems to improve patient care and overall healthcare advancement.