Health Informaticians: Professional Roles in the Marketplace

As clinicians and IT professionals move forward to spearhead existing challenges brought about by the evolution of healthcare information technology (HIT) in the 21st century, the role of the health informaticist (HI) becomes even more important.  Alongside the need for salvaging existing health problems that are costing our country an exorbitant amount of money to treat, the need for a well-trained HI in the workplace is critical to achieve success (Hersh, 2006).  When I speak about the term success, I am referring to the implementation and utilization of electronic health records (EHRs) for the purpose of improving the quality of patient care, reducing costs, improving patient safety, and developing innovative technologies to provide patients with valuable, advance clinical care options (Cantor, 2012).  That said, the role of the HI has evolved into one that has moved beyond that of fixing existing healthcare related problems including but not limited to the following:  obesity;  overworked employees;  and employees who have simply, lost interest in the enjoyment life has to offer (Hersh, 2006).  At the same time, the HI must work within a systems framework of mind rather than an individual, isolated framework of mind (Stead et al., 2011).  Thus, the rationale behind the evolving role of the HI professional is that our hospitals, physicians’ offices, and communities need HI professionals with leadership and management skills to implement change.  For this to happen, the HI must have clout to move the workforce forward and essentially, become a champion.

After systematic assessment, evaluation, and research of employees who work in a HI role, the revelation is that there is a huge shortage of HI professionals that possess combined leadership and management skills (Yusof et al., 2008).  As a result of this shortage, attempts to achieve successful EHR implementation have failed.  An example of what constitutes a HI professional with combined leadership and management skills would be an individual who understands that both skills are “inextricably linked” (Lang, 2002).  For instance, a HI leader must understand how humans in the workforce are either negatively or positively impacted by technological changes when asked to change workflow processes (Harrison et al., 2007).  At the same time, the HI leader must understand the importance of following a model for reference for the purpose of enhancing his / her ability to solve problems, think critically, and reason (Harrison et al., 2007).  An example of a model that has proven successful is the Interactive Sociotechnical Analysis (ISTA) framework (Harrison et al., 2007).  Thus, the HI leader may achieve success if he / she has a clear understanding of how to follow a step-by-step process prior to, during, and after the EHR implementation.

Furthermore, as Yusof et al. (2008) discuss, choosing the right HI leader to manage the political, economic, social, and technological (PEST) forces greatly influences the outcome of the organization’s net benefit (Yusof et al., 2008).  That said, the role of the HI professional in the 21st century is to continuously practice leadership and management throughout the implementation processes of various HIT initiatives including but not limited to the role of clinicians highlighted in the 23rd Annual HIMSS 2012 Leadership Survey.  As referenced from the 23rd Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey (2012), the role of clinicians in the field of HI would be to serve as “active participants in many aspects of IT use at their organizations, including selecting IT systems for use in their department and acting as project champions” (23rd Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey, 2012, pp. 4).

 

References

Cantor, M.N.  (2012).  Translational informatics:  an industry perspective.  Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2011-00058.

Harrison, M.I., Koppel, R., & Bar-Lev, S.  (2007).  Unintended consequences of information technologies in health care – An interactive sociotechnical analysis.  J Am Med Inform Assoc, 14, 542-549.

Hersh, W. (2006).  Who are the informaticians?  What we know and should know.  Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 13(2):  166-170.  Retrieved online from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447543/.  Accessed March 12, 2013.

23rd Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey.  (2012).  2012 HIMSS Leadership Survey Senior IT Executive Results.  Retrieved online from https://uic.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-3025995-dt-content-rid-43394237_2/courses/2013.spring.bhis.530.1/2012%20FINAL%20HIMSS%20Leadership%20Survey.pdf.  Accessed March 12, 2013.

Lang, R.D.  (2002).  Project leadership:  Key elements and critical success factors for IT project managers.  Journal of Healthcare Information Management, Vol.21, No.(1).  Retrieved online from http://www.himss.org/content/files/01_editors_intro.pdf.  Accessed

Stead, W.W., Searle, J.R., Fessler, H.E., Smith, J.W., & Shortliffe, E.H.  (2010).  Biomedical informatics:  Changing what physicians need to know and how they learn.  Academic Medicine,  DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181f41e8c.

Yusof, M., Kuljis, J., Papazafeiropoulou, A., & Stergioulas, L.K.  (2008).  An evaluation framework for health information systems:  Human, organization and technology-fit factors (HOT-fit).  International Journal of Medical Informatics, 77:386-398.

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