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Shortage of HI and HIM professionals is looming

Don NewshamVANCOUVER – An additional 6,200–12,200 health informatics (HI) and health information management (HIM) professionals, including 70% in IT and HIM roles, will be needed in Canadian healthcare over the next five years due to replacement and growth demand.

Released at e-Health 2014 in Vancouver, the HI & HIM Human Resources Outlook 2014 – 2019 report notes key industry changes and their impact on the HI and HIM professions – now numbering 39,900 professionals.

Highlights of the report include:
• retirement will be a major challenge with 5,023 professionals expected to retire between 2014 and 2019;
• projected moderation in the pace of e-Health investments;
• the shift to supporting, optimizing, and utilization of e-Health technologies;
• the integration of new technologies into the healthcare system;
• and increasing clinical and productivity benefits from existing investments will create a demand for corresponding roles.

• Roles under greater demand and/or at “High Risk” of skills shortages include those in data analytics, architecture, security and privacy standards, data quality, information governance, business analysis, and clinical informatics.
• The need to broaden the skills of current clinical professionals.
• HI & HIM professionals are being drawn to the US as a result of rapid acceleration of e-Health investment there.

The study was commissioned by six partners with key roles in supporting the implementation of e-Health technologies: Canada Health Infoway, CHIMA, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), COACH, the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and ITAC Health.

The 2014 report observes that replacement demand, arising from an aging workforce, will take on significantly greater importance as a driver of hiring requirements. It does, however, note that the majority of professionals who will be using or supporting e-Health technologies over the next five years are already employed in the workforce. This increases the importance of upgrade and advanced training for HI and HIM professionals.

The report recommendations address several aspects of the upcoming experience gap. “Since we can’t replace the experience of a seasoned but retiring professional with a recent graduate, strategies to fill that experience gap will be a major challenge over the next five years,” commented Don Newsham (pictured), report Co-Chair and CEO, COACH: Canada’s Health Informatics Association. “Plus, the report shows that procurement experience requirements are contributing to insufficient hiring of entry-level or emerging professionals.”

This landmark report calls for greater partnering between post-secondary institutions and public and private sector employers for co-op and internship programs, along with stronger employer commitment to succession planning and greater preference to e-Health suppliers demonstrating willingness to include entry-level and junior professionals on project and program teams. Newsham further noted that, “There are some great organizational examples out there and we need to learn from and build upon them”.

With the recommendation to expand the range of structured and certified skills upgrading and broadening opportunities for professionals in the field, or who wish to transition to it, Gail Crook, report Co-Chair, and CEO, Canadian Health Information Management Association (CHIMA), commented that:

“CHIMA will continue to work with employers to support and encourage HI and HIM professionals to upgrade their skill sets for the new and evolving roles via continuing education and advanced certifications. And CHIMA will continue to work with academic institutions in the development of programs that will address these skill shortages. The report supports the need for an increased focus in online and distance education delivery options.”

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