Where’s the IT money? There’s money for EMR in the ARRA

We all know what the new business environment means: You Are Expendable.

Given that, every American should be looking hard at where their future opportunities lie. IT and security people, and software developers, should be looking toward the opportunities the changes in the business landscape bring. One of the dead-certain growth areas is electronic medical records (EMR), also known as electronic health records (EHR). This was already a hot area before the federal stimulus package, but now it’s set to explode.

Do your homework: take a look at the Wikipedia entry for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_Act_of_2009

And go to the Government Printing Office site and download a PDF of the text of the act at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ5/content-detail.html.

Executive summary: there is substantial federal money available as 10-to-1 matching funds. Now that’s interesting. But wait; there’s more.

Peruse this Department of Health and Human Services document: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/E9-31217.htm. It’s tremendously verbose, packed with legalese and terrifically long, but then comes the meat: incentive payments.

There’s a graduated scale of payments over five years, starting at $15,000 the first year and then reducing, which gives every qualified provider up to $41,000 for an EMR implementation. That’s a lot of money for private practices, my friends.

Now, there are significant challenges in all of this. First is getting involved with this business: there are some very big gorillas in this cage, for one thing. Everyone from Microsoft to McKesson (http://www.mckesson.com/en_us/McKesson.com/) wants in on this.

But small practices are just annoying to these big guys, and that’s where IT consultants and other people involved with EMR implementations are going to have a heyday. There are hundreds of thousands of small practices across the US that are going to have to get on this train. And what do they want? Millions of features? Whiz-bang user interfaces?

Heck no. They want competent, intelligent people who know IT, security, networking, and hopefully a little bit about the medical environment. Above everything else, they want someone they can trust, someone responsive to their needs and their emergencies, someone who can help guide them through choosing a system, implementing it, maintaining it, and getting paid by the Feds for doing it.

That’s where I come in. And where you can too, if you have the inclination. Drop me a line if you have experience in this business, are interested in getting into it, or are a physician or practice looking for an EMR consultant.


Why Google Is Leaving China

So Google is pulling out of China. Because their networks were hacked. By people who wanted names and addresses of Chinese dissidents. I wonder who could have done that.

The simple truth, the one that every American network administrator already knows but that most Americans don’t, is that we are already in a cyber-war with the Chinese.

When I was running a State-funded website, mysterious people coming from Chinese IP addresses were endlessly trying to hack into our firewall, penetrate our website and attack our databases. Chinese universities were the primary source. I have wondered whether Chinese tech students casually attack American targets. Or if they’re encouraged. Or if their servers are just so unpatched and unmaintained that other people were using them as stalking horses.

Regardless of the reason, we were casually attacked every day, and attacked with diligence from time to time. SQL injection attacks, Coldfusion attacks, Javascript attacks, malformed URLs, attempts to “pop a shell,” you name it, they tried it.

And they’re trying it against big-time targets too, like Google and the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. They’re hacking into White House emails and leaving malware on the networks that control the flow of electric power.

We just keep letting them. Heck, we outsource our software development, R & D, technical services and everything else to the Chinese! I sure hope we’re growing some good hackers and coders here in the States. Someday America is going to realize we desperately need them.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the “New Abnormal”

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the “Economy’s Grim ‘New Abnormal'”

1. The Good: There are quite a number of IT jobs, at all levels, in Albuquerque

My informal measure of IT job activity in the 505, the number of these jobs in the Careers section of the Albuquerque Journal, looks at two things: the number of jobs in the Computer Personnel section, and the number of IT jobs in the whole Employment section. Lots of these jobs appear in Professional – Degreed and Professional – Non Degreed, for instance, and some appear in Technical.

This week (January 10, 2010), there are four jobs in Computer Personnel: a network admin, a developer, a project manager and a support tech. That’s nearly the whole range of the field. But contrast this with the more than four solid columns of jobs just in this category, about a year and a half ago. That represented a probably unrealistic demand; there weren’t that many strong technical people to be found in Albuquerque.

There are an additional ten IT jobs under other headings, ranging from IT Manager to database programmer to Support Tech I. Again, these represent a healthy market in practically all IT segments, but not enormous demand. Employers actively seeking IT people, like the HP Support Center, don’t even show up in these listings, but HP in particular is vacuuming up a lot of local talent.

2. The Bad: Demand from most big employers will continue to decline

The City of Albuquerque is going to cut budget, harshly. The State is looking for necks to chop. Intel is doing things that make me wary, like outsourcing the Atom processor to Taiwan. This “will be the mother of all jobless recoveries,” notes John Steel Gordon, an historian of economics.

3. The Ugly: The “Economy’s Grim ‘New Abnormal'”

Economist David Levy is supporting many people’s suspicions: the US is facing a long, long period of high unemployment. Think, a decade or so. He’s calling the current situation the “New Abnormal.” Pay will decline, more people will compete for every job, everyone will have to delay retirement and interest rates will rise relentlessly.

Sounds about right.

But technical people should also take note: a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey projects 34 percent growth in professional, technical and scientific services. That should create some 2.7 million jobs by 2018, smack in the middle of our area.

Your task, then, is to drive yourself as far up the value chain as you can. Specialize: choose networking, or security, or database managment, or software development. Study. Read. Take classes. And make connections. You’re welcome to do that right here.

My 2010 IT Jobs Forecast for Albuquerque and New Mexico

1. A wave of retirements at Sandia Labs will shake up the IT jobs market.

Because of a change in retirement benefits coming in 2011, quite a number of senior scientists and engineers will choose to retire in 2010. Other than the people who outright leave town, this will have three certain effects:

  • Some of these people will simply pass through a revolving door, right back into consulting at their old programs at $300-400 per hour. Aside from the benefit the money will bring to Albuquerque, this will have a zero-sum effect on the local jobs situation.
  • Others will be out there competing with you for IT positions. But don’t count on it, unless you’re already a senior-level project manager or software engineer.
  • Many of the best will start new companies, instantly creating a new demand for IT products and services, from PC support to software development.

2. The HP support center will keep hiring, but not at the rate some expect.

Their target was approximately 1200 employees, which they may eventually reach, but I’m betting it’s not in 2010. While HP stands fair to go head-to-head with IBM for business services, the economy (in the sense of jobs) just isn’t coming roaring back. It’s only roaring back for bankers and CEOs (in the form of bonuses) so far.

3. Simmering demand is going to continue heating up in the Duke City.

Everybody’s budgets are tight and getting tighter, but businesses have to function in a digital world, so they have to have some form of IT support. Data still has to be captured, cleaned and stored; networks have to run; proprietary software has to be developed; Internet presences must be managed. And oh yeah, the V.P.’s system won’t boot….

So there will be more opportunities in temp work and consulting. This is going to be a gravy time if you’re the run-your-own-business type. But even if you’d prefer a regular job, temping is the best thing I’ve ever done to get the feel of an organization, and to get job offers.

4. Medical practices are going to be taking serious looks at EMR.

The planets are aligning: the ARRA has substantial funds (I’m hearing up to 85% per practice) for implementations of Electronic Medical Records – money that will dry up after 2011. And HIPAA regulations tighten in 2011, 2013 and 2015, forcing providers into electronic patient records and billing submissions.

5. Intel will expand its outsourcing of production

If I were an investor, I’d like Intel’s relationship with Taiwan Semiconductor (TSI). If I worked for Intel’s Rio Rancho facility, I might not be so warm on it. Intel is sharing the Atom processor’s architecture with TSI in a bid for the rapidly growing mobile market, which means the hot, new development and production going forward will be … in Taiwan. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 2010 dealing badly with the Rio Rancho workforce.

The picture is, as always, mixed. I wouldn’t get overly hopeful, but I wouldn’t get overly pessimistic either. Times like the present are ripe with opportunities for new businesses. But that’s fodder for another canon. I’ll look back next year and see how I did. For now, keep driving yourself up the value chain!