A Social Network for Health Informatics Professionals and Students
As part of the discussions at eHealth week, Dr Farzad Montashari, National Coordinator for Health IT, US Department of Health and Human Services shared some thoughts about workforce training in eHealth. The stimulus package in the US provided $117m for workforce programmes and an evaluation of the impact will be available soon. However Dr Montashari has some interesting points to make.
The funding was spent in a number of areas:
Curricula development for 5 eHealth roles with different competencies and profiles. Nearly 100,000 units of these curricula have been downloaded so far. However the curricula do need to be customized before use.
Competency exams administered by HIMA. These are offered free to graduates and are run in over 81 colleges and have graduated 17,000 students so far.
Higher awards such as M.Sc are offered through universities and over 1000 have been graduated so far.
Some of the lessons learned from this work (there will be a formal evaluation soon):
The M.Sc students found jobs even before they graduated, there is a huge demand for such graduates
The lower level training, carried out in community colleges etc, didn't have as much success. Students who are converting from other disciplines didn't fair as well as students with a health background. A major reason for this is that it is difficult to give non-Health students access real world access to health data, health services etc. as part of their training. More work needs to be done here to create a type of appreticeship model. A better model is to retrain and up-skill people who are already working in the health services. A lot of the smaller health centres in rural america are run by one or two people who need a range of skills. We need to train these people (the transportation chief may also be the IT person!)
Certification and even free examinations weren't taken up that much. Employers are not saying "I really value that competency exam"! Maybe the bar is set too low on these exams or they are not covering the right competencies. When developing the competencies the first step should be to approach the employers to find out what they want in a certification and this will incentivise the job seekers to take the examinations. Set the bar high to create a brand that is impressive. Start from employers in and not academia out. A contribution from the floor stated that a very popular certification in the US is the clinical informatics certification and that certification is more important in medicine than it is in computing.
Some things to focus on when developing curricula:
It's what you do with the data that's important. Emphasise data protection, privacy and security in all courses - there are skills gaps in this area. Look at process re-engineering and lean approaches to clinical pathways. Dr Montashari made this point well "Remind me" he said, "why we take 16 steps to do this process? Couldn't we do it in 5?". The point is that technology and eHealth IT is an enabler for process re-engineering. We need to rethink processes in the digital age. Another nice analogy here. In Boston the roads are narrow and windy because they paved over the old cow paths. In eHealth we have been paving over the old paths rather than building new ones. We need to straighten out the processes. A contribution from the floor stated that process maps should be part of the eHealth educational process. Other important subject matter for curricula developers include change management and organizational issues.
Dr Montashari finished by pointing out the mega trend in MOOCs and applauded the MOOC concept. He also stated that we need to simplify - take big data/cloud based data and have small application of it. We will all be information workers and data workers in the future. As to the argument that physicians don't need to computerise, he stated that there is a paradigm shift happening where the primary care is becoming more team based with population accountability. This paradigm shift will require data to succeed.