Healthcare employers added 17,000 jobs in November 2011, and they’ve been adding an average of 27,000 jobs per month since December 2010, according to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report. That’s the good news.

More good news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of healthcare information technology (IT) jobs is expected to increase by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018, a much faster pace than the average for all occupations through the same time period.

The administration has launched workforce training programs, including through 82 community colleges and nine universities nationwide. As of January, 9,000 community college students have been trained for health IT careers, and another 8,706 students have enrolled.

As of February, participating universities have enrolled 1,200 students and graduated nearly 600 post-graduate and masters-level health IT professionals, with more than 1,700 expected to graduate by the summer of 2013.

The new mandate means new revenues
There is a mandate to take all the records digital and expand telemedicine. Technology continues the unstoppable wave of change. Systems are being integrated in ways we never anticipated just a few years ago. Medical records are being digitized for speed and accuracy. Accounting systems and patient billing systems are interlocked with the patient records, and protocols are set up to improve patient care while maintaining confidentiality. This entire process is designed to serve more patients at a lower cost per patient. Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid are important components of today’s healthcare system in the United States, but like all bureaucratic systems, the flow of information is critical to the processing of data and the approval of patient care treatments (and the related charges).

We see a huge challenge for the integrated systems contractor to provide the pathways and connections to allow all of the new systems to intercommunicate effectively. It’s all about a contractor that can electrify, illuminate, and communicate plus deal with security and life safety systems. The multitalented electrical contractor of this generation is paving the information superhighways into the next generation of healthcare.

Telemedicine has many different meanings
The transition of smart offices into smart buildings, then into smart networks, means an exciting future for telemedicine. Technologies are empowering to deliver quality medical care to every corner of our world. There remains a growing demand for the integrated systems contractor in the medical sector. Today’s medical sector is well financed and offers a significant revenue opportunity in these challenging times. Today our research reveals that more than 96 percent of all electrical contractors that serve the medical sector also work in low-voltage technologies. We also learned that these contractors are expanding their offerings into myriad services of related and integrated systems. Energy control, low-voltage lighting, sound masking, access control, and a host of building automation services are just part of the new services in the quiver of capabilities for the contractor.

Viva VDV!
While telecommunications seems to be bled white by the Internet and voice over Internet protocol (VOIP), the world of electronics suffers no such malady. Any electrical contractor can quickly tell you that the demand for wiring and communications cabling is alive and well here in the United States. In fact, electronics seems to be doing well worldwide. As the telecommunications giants of yesteryear sink into a sea of red ink, we see the emergence of the electronics industry as the heir apparent for the converged technologies of voice/data/video (VDV).

VDV is a natural fit with the existing electrical distribution network technology. The infrastructure of electrical systems and wiring is a mature industry that has grown under the intense pressure of scrutiny and competition. This is most unlike telecommunications networks, which were gestated under a monopoly system that was so complex that the regulators could not manage it. Does that ring a “Bell?”

Show me the money
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that 2,000 hospitals and 41,000 physicians have received $3.1 billion in incentive payments for the meaningful use of certified electronic health records (EHRs).

Sebelius’ report on the most up-to-the-minute stats on the EHR incentive program sets the scene for the imminent release of the meaningful use stage 2 proposed rule.

“Health IT is the foundation for a truly 21st century health system where we pay for the right care, not just more care,” she said Feb. 17 at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley Health Science Institute in Kansas City, Mo., where she discussed the growth of health IT professional jobs to improve patient outcomes and the economy.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has paid $3.12 billion in incentives to physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers who have started to meaningfully use EHRs to improve the quality of patient care. In January alone, CMS provided $519 million to eligible providers.

Sebelius also cited results from a survey conducted by the American Hospital Association and reported by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT which found that the percentage of hospitals that had adopted EHRs has more than doubled to 35 percent from 16 percent between 2009 and 2011. And 85 percent of hospitals said they intend to take advantage of the Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments by 2015.

Raising the bar
Today, industry and trade organizations such as the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are engaged in a massive effort to raise the bar for higher standards of quality, safety, and performance in materials and workmanship.

Our information-dependent society must have reliable infrastructure systems for communications, as well as power. These networks are finding the electrical industry is a “better neighborhood” to grow and improve. After researching the electrical contractors and their supply system, we have uncovered another key element in this industry's success. Leading electrical distribution companies—such as Graybar, WESCO, CSC, and a host of other great distributors—offer much more than “parts.” Their support systems include up-to-date information on product improvements, innovative applications, safety, and quality control systems for traditional electrical contractor needs, as well as the special requirements for communications networks. This one-stop-shopping is a major value-add to the contractor and their customers.

Finding the money in GEMS!
So where is the money? You don’t have to look far to find the GEMS. That's right, the GEMS (Government, Educational, and Medical Sectors). These sectors are all still experiencing very healthy growth. Funding programs in all three of these sectors are fully functional.

We have spent countless hours looking into these industry sectors. We’ve found a lot of quietly smiling faces. Vendors that already enjoy the fruits of these sectors aren’t talking. Heck, they aren’t even whispering. They quietly shuffle back and forth to the bank.

If you think that uncovering these opportunities requires a major mining effort, then you haven’t even tried. Start with the Internet. Check out the industry organizations that describe members of the GEM sector, including these GEMS:

National Association of State Telecommunications Directors (NASTD): Surviving and thriving in the world of technology requires an excellent support system of people and information. That’s why state government IT departments across the nation rely on the resources of the NASTD. NASTD offers its state members easy access to a network of IT professionals across the nation and a wide array of meaningful technology information tools and resources.
Association of College, and University Telecommunication Administrators (ACUTA): Leading the mission for technology in higher education.
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS):  Transforming Healthcare Through IT. HIMSS is a cause-based, not-for-profit organization exclusively focused on providing global leadership for the optimal use of information technology (IT) and management systems for the betterment of healthcare. Founded 51 years ago, HIMSS and its related organizations are headquartered in Chicago with additional offices in the United States, Europe and Asia. HIMSS represents more than 44,000 individual members, of which more than two thirds work in healthcare provider, governmental and not-for-profit organizations. HIMSS also includes over 570 corporate members and more than 170 not-for-profit organizations that share our mission of transforming healthcare through the effective use of information technology and management systems. HIMSS frames and leads healthcare practices and public policy through its content expertise, professional development, research initiatives, and media vehicles designed to promote information and management systems contributions to improving the quality, safety, access, and cost-effectiveness of patient care.

The electrical contractor should get busy on building additional revenue streams from the healthcare market, team up with a distributor that speaks your language, and do what you do best. Make money the old fashioned way, with quality, safety, and reliability at a fair and reasonable price. It really works.


BISBEE is with Communication Planning Corp., a telecom and datacom design/build firm. He provides a free monthly summary of industry news on www.wireville.com.