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Survey shows support for clinical informatics roles

15 August 2018

Health providers with chief information officers should also have a formal funded role for a lead clinician working within digital health, respondents to an survey say.

The survey had 94 responses and, of those, nearly 90 per cent said that every health provider organisation that has a chief information officer should also have a formal funded role for a lead clinician working within digital health.

Six respondents replied ‘no’ to this question and four said they ‘don’t know’.

The most popular titles for the role were chief clinical informatics officer and clinical informatics director/lead, gaining 47 per cent and 44 per cent of the votes respectively.

The idea of a chief informatics officer, which is being developed in Australia, gained just three votes and chief nursing or medical informatics officer were also not popular, with one commenter saying these are not broad enough terms to cover the users of the systems.

Another comment was that the word ‘chief’ implies a degree of staffing and oversight that few, if any, health organisations have in New Zealand.

When asked whether this person needs to have formal qualifications in informatics, 27 per cent of respondents said ‘yes’, while 61 per cent said ‘it depends on their experience’ and 12 per cent said ‘no’.

Interestingly, nearly two-thirds of respondents said their organisation already has a formal role for a clinician working in digital health.

Respondents were from a range of organisations, including health providers such as district health boards, shared services and government agencies and commercial organisations.

Many of the commenters stated that the role is essential and that some organisations should have more than one clinician working in this area to ensure IT projects are appropriately prioritised and that solutions meet the needs of end users.

“People with IT background often find clinical terminology and workflow difficult to understand. This results in systems which are not in sync with day-to-day clinical practice,” a commenter says.

Comments were also made around the need for training, mentoring and professional development for medical students and health professionals who want to work in digital health.

“It would be good if there were options for ongoing training and career progression for all of us who work in digital health-related positions. At present there do not seem to be any options,” one commenter says.

Karen Blake is the regional manager health information within the office of the CCIO at healthAlliance and says the shared services agency recognises the need to support the development of the clinical informatics workforce. It has instituted three initiatives as part of this commitment.

healthAlliance partnered with The University of Auckland to have a community pharmacist complete a Masters placement with them for a semester. It has also employed a health informatics student from the university for a six-month paid internship as part of their postgraduate study and to gain experience in health IT.

Blake says the intern is working on a variety of things, including project management and data standards. healthAlliance has established a formal mentoring programme as part of the internship to provide additional support and learning.

As part of an initiative with Auckland Hospital, a medical registrar is also doing a six-month placement at the shared services agency, giving her exposure to how informatics works.

“I don’t think as a sector we are consciously growing our clinical IT workforce so it’s about how do we take a leadership role in that,” Blake says.

healthAlliance is keen to further develop the clinical informatics workforce and will be continuing the internship programme, and Blake is looking at other workforce initiatives.

Read our latest profile of a clinician working in digital health, Matthew Valentine from Bay of Plenty DHB.



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